J. Cole does it his way. And you can’t argue with the results. With the release of 4 Your Eyez Only , J.Cole earned his fourth #1 album. By today’s hip-hop standards, he achieves his success in an unconventional way. J.Cole crafted his fourth studio album without any feature performers. It’s his voice throughout and it results in a personal and complex collection of songs about politics, family, and being himself in hip-hop.
After releasing his mix tapes, The Warm Up and Friday Night Lights, to positive reviews, J.Cole signed with Jay-Z’s Roc Nation. Cole made appearances on tracks with Jay-Z, as well as Wale and Talib Kweli. His star rose while preparing to release his debut album, Cole World: The Sideline Story. He would release his sophomore album Born Sinner in 2013, before releasing an album named for his child in 2014, Forest Hills Drive.
Forest Hills catapulted Cole to stardom. The album debuted at #1 on the Billboard charts and earned him Top Rap Album at the 2015 Billboard Music Awards as well as a Grammy nomination for Best Rap Album.
Before the release of Forest Hills, J.Cole visited Ferguson, Missouri. The site of a police shooting of 18-year-old African American, Michael Brown. The experience sparked the song, “Be Free,” and encouraged J.Cole’s political side.
Avoiding politics in American culture becomes more difficult everyday with police shootings, and a Donald Trump administration looming in the new year. J.Cole doesn’t shy away from political commentary in 4 Your Eyez Only, he embraces it.
In the song, “Neighbors,” Cole tells the story of the police raiding his empty home. The armed officers acted on a tip telling them that the home sold or manufactured drugs. To their surprise, the police found only recording equipment. If his neighbors or the police listened to 4 Your Eyez Only, they would have learned there are other things he’s interested in.
One topic that pops up numerous times in his album is the death of his friend, James MacMillan Jr., who was killed at the age of 22. On “Immortal,” Cole mourns and honors the memory of his friend as well as the countless individuals who lost their lives to gun violence.
Cole’s social commentary extends to the over-the-top bravado in hip-hop culture and the “tough guy culture” that pierces African-American community. His activism is not only present in his music, it’s there in the way that he lives his life.
J.Cole makes his home in North Carolina where he grew up. He dresses modestly
compared to his peers in the rap community. He’s a good-natured rapper who talks about topics that relate to common people. As relatable as his songs are, J.Cole reveals little about his personal life to the public.
Through a few songs in 4 Your Eyes Only, Cole lets people in on his personal life. In “She’s Mine, Pt. 1” and “She’s Mine, Pt. 2,” he celebrates his relationship with his longtime girlfriend and ther new daughter. In “Foldin’ Clothes,” Cole tells the familiar story of choosing a night of Netflix and almond milk at home over a night with the outside world. J.Cole doesn’t shirk his friends when he doesn’t feature them on his albums. He gives his singular voice a platform for his thoughts and his social commentary. It’s not glitzy and it’s not over-the-top, but that’s just J.Cole.