Review: J. Cole – Cole World: The Sideline Story

It’s a big day for Carolina — new albums from Phonte and 9th Wonder. Oh, and J. Cole‘s highly anticipated debut finally hit the shelves today, and it served more than an ever as a reminder of how much the money and fame aspect that accompanies the desires of making music can affect the latter. Jermaine’s been quoted as saying he understands that he’s strategically made tracks (“Work Out”) specifically to cross the boundary towards commercial appeal to gain new fans that will eventually discover his deeper material. While it’s hard to argue with this approach to an artist that’s gained as much “underground” acclaim as he as, it’s tough as a fan and not a critic to know that he could be making better shit. But that’s the nitpickin’ — this album from front to back is solid. A mix of the old, “Lights Please” & “In the Morning,” with a handful of unreleased and leaked tracks. Showcases of his lyrical skills on ‘Sideline Story,’ ‘Nobody’s Perfect,’ and ‘Rise and Shine.’ Thematically crafted songs like ‘Never Told,’ ‘Lost Ones,’ and ‘Nothing Lasts Forever.’ In fact, there’s no tracks where you’d characterize his rhymes as weak, which is something we’ve just become accustomed to when listening to any J. Cole song. The qualms will come from the expectations for him to say more than he did with his first album and to tie it together thematically more fluidly. He’s held in a similar esteem as Kendrick Lamar when it comes to lyrical ability, so, whether fair or not, Section.80 set the bar high for Jermaine to impress. I know there’s more for him to offer, it’ll just take time and less of a yearning for the spotlight that I feel has degraded the quality of music from artists like Big Sean and Lupe Fiasco. Ultimately, he came up short in creating a masterpiece — this is more of an extremely well-produced mixtape. Which won’t draw complaints from me as a fan, but leaves me looking for more from his next projects.

Check out all the lyrics to the album here.

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1. “Intro”
2. “Dollar and a Dream III”
3. “Can’t Get Enough” (featuring Trey Songz)
4. “Lights Please”
5. “Interlude”
6. “Sideline Story”
7. “Mr. Nice Watch” (featuring Jay-Z)
8. “Cole World”
9. “In the Morning” (featuring Drake)
10. “Lost Ones”
11. “Nobody’s Perfect” (featuring Missy Elliott)
12. “Never Told”
13. “Rise and Shine”
14. “God’s Gift”
15. “Breakdown”