In this day and age its incredibly rare to see a hip hop album with absolutely no features what so ever however; that is exactly what J. Cole has done for his latest offering 2014 Forest Hills Drive. All 13 tracks on the album are performed solely by Cole and not only that the young artist has also provided majority of the production for the album with only a little bit of help coming from outside camps. I honestly cannot remember the last time I saw a hip hop album with not even one feature, it’s a gutsy move from the North Carolina rapper, a move that definitely deserves some props although it doesn’t entirely pay off.
2014 Forest Hills Drive is the third studio album from J. Cole and possibly his most meaningful work to date. The name of the album is the name of the street that Cole lived on growing up as a kid whilst the album cover depicts the rapper sitting on the roof of that same house, similar to Eminem’s album cover for The Marshall Mathers LP which saw him sitting on the front steps of his childhood home. You can tell that this album means a lot to Cole, the Jay-Z protégé is determined to make music that matters to him and whilst at times the album fails to make a lasting impression you can’t deny the mans passion.
After a placid and soulful intro we are thrown into the albums opening track January 28th, the date represents Cole’s birthday while the song sees the rapper compare himself to the likes of Rakim, Big Daddy Kane and LL Cool J (slow down Cole! Lets not get ahead of ourselves just yet). Wet Dreamz is one of my proffered tracks on the album, the personal story recounts in detail the first time Cole had sex. Now do we really want to know about his first sexual experience? No not really, but his smooth flow and relatable lyrics make it work.
Cole switches his style up a fair bit on this record, tracks like 03 Adolescence, St. Tropez and Apparently showcase the rappers brusque singing voice somewhat reminiscent of an early Kid Cudi and whilst at times it sounds promising it also becomes stagnant after a while. One of the more memorable joints on the album is the hard hitting track Fire Squad. Cole’s skills really come out to play on this one, his solid flow mixed with that boom bap style beat combine to create a classic hip hop feel that is hard to come by these days. The album finishes with a 14 minute Note To Self, to be honest I’ll be surprised if many people actually listen to the whole 14 minutes.
2014 Forest Hills Drive is a decent album however; it just doesn’t do enough to really raise some eyebrows or get the heart pumping. Whilst there are definitely some quality tracks on here they are unfortunately overshadowed by a larger portion of average ones, there is just to much inconsistency for this album to even be considered a modern day classic. Props must go to Cole though for his passion and dedication towards this album and the fact that he hasn’t succumbed to the mainstream garbage that we are surrounded by today. We are yet to hear the best from Cole, the future can only get better.