“4 Your Eyez Only” J. Cole Album Review


Photo by DeShaun Craddock, Taken on August 30, 2014, Some rights reserved, original link to work: https://flic.kr/p/oJX84k

Nethra Pillai, Online Editor

Cole’s fourth studio album, “4 Your Eyez Only,” was created for reasons beyond publicity and commercial success. The album was released on December 9th, exactly two years after his critically acclaimed album “2014 Forest Hill Drive.” The status of the American rapper and producer has been rising since vocalizing many issues such as abortion, poverty, and police brutality in his tracks.

The hip hop singles currently hitting the charts, and usually from artists like Drake or the Weeknd, contain a catchy chorus and strong, repetitive beats. The power in Cole’s music lies in the lyrics. The success of rap lyricists and storytellers has declined since the 90’s, when rappers like Biggie, Tupac, and Nas dominated the hip hop scene. Cole’s verses blatantly bring to life the struggles and issues, especially faced in the black community. The injustice in incarceration is highlighted many times throughout “4 Your Eyez Only.”

The first track on the album, “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” (referencing Ernest Hemingway’s novel) explores loss and depression which is tied with death. The next track, “Immortal,” immediately defies this, as it goes on to glorify and berate the concept of “living forever” due to fame. But the same track also sets the nostalgic feeling to the entire album, as Cole introduces the theme of a troubled childhood surrounding drugs.

Some of the more popular songs on the album “Deja Vu” and “She’s Mine Pt. 1” recounts memories of a girl and falling in love. “She’s Mine Pt. 2” introduces the love between a father and a daughter, revealing that Cole is narrating a story from another perspective. In “Change” he introduces the character James, Cole’s childhood friend, and unfortunately a drug dealer who only wants a future with his daughter, the person he loves the most.

The blatant, hard verses are outlined by soft, jazz-like instrumentals. In his final track, “4 Your Eyez Only,” the final verse leaves listeners gripped to every word. James is murdered on the streets, but Cole passes on the message to James’s daughter Nina that despite all the violence and crime, it is love which precedes everything. In the final verse, Cole also says, “ I dedicate these words to you and all the other children/ Affected by the mass incarceration in this nation/ That sent your pops to prison when he needed education.” The themes of social progression in this album raise light towards injustices in the justice system.

The album may not be one listeners will want to immediately hear again. Cole manages to reach out to listeners, evoking memories of childhood and first love. In fact, the photo on the cover was shot in a neighborhood in Atlanta, to try and capture where the essence of the album lies.  At the same time, those that truly listen to the lyrics learn about a side of America that might not have been seen under a clear light.