4 Your Eyez Only, J. Cole’s fourth studio album, was released earlier today. 4 Your Eyez Only is Cole’s first album since 2014 Forest Hills Drive, which if you haven’t heard, went platinum with no features.
4 Your Eyez Only was preceded by a 40-minute documentary titled Eyez, which was released on Tidal in early December. Eyez gave viewers a glimpse of what Cole has been up to since 2014 Forest Hills Drive, as well as behind the scenes footage of Cole in the recording studio.
The songs “Everybody Dies” and “False Prophets,” which were featured on Eyez, were left off of 4 Your Eyez Only. Both “Everybody Dies” and “False Prophets” developed considerable online buzz because of Cole’s lyrics attacking other rappers. While Cole mostly rapped in generalizations, there was no mistaking his criticism of Kanye West in “False Prophets”.
On “False Prophets,” Cole raps, “He’s falling apart, but we deny it, justifying that half-a** sh*t he dropped, we always buy it, when he tells us he a genius but it’s clearer lately, it’s been hard for him to look into the mirror lately.”
Cole’s lyrics are an allusion to West’s recent cancellation of tour dates allegedly due to depression and paranoia.
On 4 Your Eyez Only, another featureless album, Cole drops his attack on other rappers for sincere, thoughtful songs about both social problems and personal strife. Unlike rappers he has criticized, Cole writes his own music, earning writing credits for all 10 songs on 4 Your Eyez Only, according to Complex.
Many of Cole’s fans praise him for making songs that are in many ways, relatable. From losing a friend, to falling in love, to personal growth, there are no shortage of those types of songs on 4 Your Eyez Only. Cole’s role as the main producer and writer on this album both help and hurt his cause as the world’s most relatable rapper.
The songs audiences hear on 4 Your Eyez Only are as honest as they come, originating from the mind and pen of Cole himself. Even as a mainstream rapper, Cole, for the most part, stays away from bragging about his fame or money, and instead captures the mindset of a young man still finding his way in the world. While Cole’s sincerity and thoughtfulness on 4 Your Eyez Only can never be questioned, his lyrics can at times undermine the themes he is describing because of poor word-play or cheesy similes.
On “She’s Mine, Pt. 1” Cole raps, “Every time you go to sleep you look like you in heaven, plus the head-game stronger than a few Excedrin, you shine like the patent leather on my new 11’s.”
While still a charming song, like many songs on 4 Your Eyez Only, “She’s Mine, Pt. 1” can not be looked at as a lyrical master piece.
Whether it is fair or not, Cole has been lumped into a class of other socially conscious rappers, often being compared against Kendrick Lamar. While both rappers tell personal stories and relate those stories to sociopolitical topics, Lamar is able to do so with a tighter flow and word-play that makes Cole’s lyrics sound juvenile. For all the good in Cole’s music, critics of his often come back to this argument when disputing his place in the rap hierarchy.
While Cole may not use insane similes and word-play on 4 Your Eyez Only, this album still succeeds. The message from Cole’s hoards of supporters that his music is great because it’s relatable actually has merit. Along with great production, good enough flow, and an unmistakable voice, the intimate, personal themes on 4 Your Eyez Only makes listeners feel comfortable, in a way, at home.
On 4 Your Eyez Only, Cole does not necessarily make you think like Kendrick would, or make you party like Drake would, what Cole does instead is bring you back to your own experiences with love, loss and change.
4 Your Eyez Only is now available on multiple streaming platforms.
[Featured Image by Amy Harris/Invision/AP Images]