Music Review: J.Cole Transforms Into Alter Ego kiLL Edward For New Album

When J. Cole announced that he was hosting a secret “no cameras, no phones” a dollar and a dream-like event last week (April 17) I was so excited because I thoroughly enjoyed “4 Your Eyez Only”, and I just knew that KOD would be a part TWO to its predecessor. I couldn’t have been more wrong. First off, I want to address the cover art of the album, and how eerily aesthetic it is. 22-year-old Detroit artist Kamau Haroon, a.k.a. Sixmau, the creative behind the artwork spoke to VIBE about his interest in art, as well as working with Jermaine.

Cole discovered my work through Childish Major, who is another rapper I was doing art for. I can’t talk much about his vision. You’re going to have to listen to the album. It all ties in together. It was definitely a collaboration. It was a marriage of art and music. He told me what direction he was going in and then he gave me [the] freedom to portray it how I wanted.

At first listen, the album has a very consistent and easy-to-follow sound. J. Cole is a talented storyteller, and he knows how to paint a clear and concise picture of what he sees in his mind eye to the listener. KOD is a story (My interpretation) of all the different types of addictions we face on a day-to-day basis. Addiction to fame (KOD), Addiction to social media/lust (Photograph, Kevin’s Heart), Addiction to giving more than he receives (Cut Off), Addiction to Money (ATM, Motiv8), and so on. Although addiction plays a huge role in the dynamics of the album; Cole also touches on the subject of US Taxes, disloyalty, meditation over drugs and more.

One track (Window Pain) on the album that stood out to me the most, features a young girl who tells a story of her cousin being shot and killed.

One night
When me and my mom was about to go to bed
All the doors was locked
Then when I had fell asleep
My mom had heard three gunshots
It was to my cousin, his name was Rod
The one that came to pick me up
He had been shot right through the face, right in the neck
And he got shot right in the stomach.

During the song, J. Cole contemplates whether he has sacrificed a part of his life for the fame that he now has, and how he always believed that he could change things in his life he had the money to do so. It was one of the songs I really enjoyed listening to because it really speaks to his perspective on where he is in life and where he was before the fame. He also speaks of the little girl from the intro of the song and how she fears that he would forget her, in which he promised that he wouldn’t.

The little girl I met this past summer said, “Don’t forget me” I won’t forget you, how could I with all you went through? A bullet hit yo’ cousin in Temple while he was with you. 

I do appreciate the wordplay (Window pain and Kevin’s heart) in the titles and the lyrics throughout the album. As a lyricist and one for playing around with different puns and terminologies, Cole plays both roles as the addict, speaking of his experiences and the spectator, who is making smart judgment calls on what he is witnessing. Throughout the album, J. Cole subliminally asks rappers who wanted to be in the position that they are in now if their worth has changed. If living in bigger homes have increased their self-worth?

“The number one question is, “How?”

How does it feel now that you on?

How much you worth? How big is your home?”

Cole also throws shots at those who believe that he should collaborate with other rappers more often. Something that he is clearly offended by. As most people are aware J. Cole’s last two albums, “4 your eyez only” and 2014 forest hill drive both went platinum without the appearance of any other artists. An accomplishment that Cole is proud of and speaks metaphorically of. 

How come you won’t get a few features?
I think you should? How ’bout I don’t?
How ’bout you just get the fuck off my dick?
How ’bout you listen and never forget?
Only gon’ say this one time, then I’ll dip
Niggas ain’t worthy to be on my shit

Overall, KOD is a poetic depiction of the culture of today, how he feels about it and what he wants to see happen in order to change it. Cole doesn’t give any indication of what the true meaning of the album is about but instead leaves it open for the listeners, fans, and critics to give their own interpretation. The album is definitely thought-provoking and will be creating topics and think pieces for months (and maybe years) to come.