Wednesday, December 17, 2014
Review: "2014 Forest Hills Drive" is J. Cole's Strongest Effort To Date
The thirteen tracks of this album traces J. Cole's life. Beginning in his hometown of Fayetteville, North Carolina, Cole details his youth growing up, and then shows him taking off as a successful rapper. But the album comes full circle, with Cole realizing that the flashiness of Hollywood won't bring true happiness, but family, friends, and love that he found in Fayetteville will. 2014 Forest Hills Drive is actually the address of his childhood home, that he bought back a few months ago. Cole does everything on this album. There are no guest features and all the production is handled by Cole, but the album still sounds diverse and full nonetheless. Everything about this album shows Cole at his highest. He rhymes energetically and with cleverness, and balances passionate anecdotes with addictive hooks. His production is much more polished than on past albums. The sampling on 2014 Forest Hills Drive is less obvious than on Cole's previous works, and the use of chords, piano keys, and drums all blend together perfectly to create bouncy, varied sounds. On tracks like "Fire Squad" and "Tale of Two Citiez" Cole raps aggressively with production to match. And on tracks like "Love Yourz" and "St. Tropez" Cole spits positive lines over bouncy, joyful production. One of my favorite things about this album is that it hides a deeper narrative behind what appears to be a conventional rap album. While first listen of "Fire Squad" might sound like an attack on current hip hop, Cole slips in lines like "damn, my n-gga why you acting like a b-tch?/If you scared to take a chance how the f-ck we gon get rich?" as an introspective taunt to his younger self. Unlike Born Sinner, where it seemed like each song had a meaning behind it, 2014 Forest Hills Drive asks its listeners to find true happiness throughout the entirety of the album.
A few of the songs aren't t my favorite. "Wet Dreamz" is a story about Cole losing his virginity, but gets pretty detailed and illustrates Cole fiddling with condoms and getting boners in class, which I'd rather not imagine. "Hello" is an odd song, that features Cole saying "hello" repetitively in an weird tone, and is probably the weakest track on the album. "Note To Self" is the outro track, and runs for over fourteen minutes. The last ten minutes is just Cole thanking everyone who helped on the album, his friends, family, and fans. While it probably won't get a lot of plays, it is very nice to hear Cole so ecstatic at how his album turned out
2014 Forest Hills Drive is about a week old at the time of this article, and has already sold over 375,000 copies. That's the biggest first week opening of any hip hop album this year, destroying Mastermind's first week sales of 179,000. And this was accomplished with no singles, barely any marketing, a single music video before the release, and even after it leaked a week before release. You can cop the album here.