With J. Cole it’s hard not to feel like that proud best friend who’s been telling everyone for years that he’s gonna be the next big thing, and yelling ‘I told you!’ when it finally happens. I’ve been rocking with Cole since my college days and ever since I heard The Warm Up, I knew that he had something special. I was right there watching him grow, evolve, and become more confident in his craft. So I was too proud when he did the damn near impossible, and went platinum with no features, no promo, and no radio hits. He had officially arrived. It was also a moment when he seemed to really figure out who he was and what mattered to him. That was two years ago and I’ve been anxiously waiting for what would become 4 Your Eyez Only ever since.
“To die a young legend or live a long life unfulfilled ‘Cause you wanna change the world But while alive you never will ‘Cause they only feel you after you gone, or I’ve been told And now I’m caught between bein’ heard and gettin’ old”
His last album was a pretty minimalist, paired down affair and 4 Your Eyez Only takes that a step even further. The production is pretty sedated, outside of maybe “Immortal” there aren’t any songs with hard hitting, upbeat sounds. It’s a pretty mellow array of beats that don’t really do anything or go anywhere of note. They actually had me falling into a lull about halfway through before the fantastic “Neighbors” picked me up a little. This is probably my least favorite produced project of his to date, in spite of it having the most intricate use of instrumentation I’ve ever heard from him. The overly sedated production could be forgiven, but some inexplicable choices could not be. He included “Deja Vu”, even though it has almost the exact same beat as Bryson Tiller’s far more interesting “Exchange.” They say the beat got stolen, but when it came out first and did it better, does it really matter? Deciding not to include “False Prophets” and “Everybody Dies” didn’t make any sense either. They would’ve easily been some of the best songs on the album. Poor decision making.
“Fuck the fame and the fortune—well, maybe not the fortune But one thing is for sure though, the fame is exhaustin’ That’s why I moved away, I needed privacy Surrounded by the trees and Ivy League”
4 Your Eyez Only is in all intents and purposes, small scale. It’s a very intimate affair where he raps about personal struggles with fame and privilege, the loss of friends, and the struggles of everyday life. His ability to spit relatable verses and paint vivid pictures is so good that it “almost” makes the production unimportant. “4 Your Eyez Only” is enough on it’s own to justify the existence of this project. The tale he raps from beginning to end on the album is genuine, heartfelt, and real. Ultimately, he’s one of the most important hip-hop voices of this generation, but he struggled with meshing his message with interesting music.
Have you heard 4 Your Eyez Only? What’d you think about it? Did you find his beat selection dull, like I did? Let me know in the comments below and be sure to leave your rating for the album.
4 Your Eyez Only takes his recent minimalist approach a step too far. Aside from a few tracks, the production is heavily sedated and lacking anything memorable. If it wasn't for his immense ability to paint vivid pictures with his lyrics and storytelling, it'd be a tough one to get all the way through. Ultimately, he's one of the most important hip-hop voices of this generation, but he struggled with meshing his message with interesting music.