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Album Review: The Offseason Showcases J.Cole's Journey to Fame

The cover art for The Offseason features a burning basketball goal which references J. Cole's love for basketball. (Photo Used Under the Fair Use Provision of the US Copyright Code)

By Ethan Ellis--Eagle Staff Writer

J. Cole dropped his new studio album The Off-season on May 14th. This was his first album since 2018 when he dropped KOD and it did not disappoint. The album broke Spotify's one-day streaming record for 2021 with 62 million streams and had four songs debut in the top ten of the Billboard Hot 100. The album has 12 songs and is 39 minutes long.

I n t e r l u d e was dropped a week before the album was released and is, in my opinion, the best song on the album. It starts off with a slower beat, making the listener think that it will be a slower song. But, at around the 43 second mark of the song, that all changes.

In the song, J. Cole describes where he grew up and what the atmosphere was like there. Cole describes both the heavy amount of violence and drug usage that happened around him when he grew up. This gives the listener a newfound respect for Cole after listening to the harsh conditions he grew up in.

The first song on the album is 9 5 . s o u t h. The song title is in reference to I-95 which runs through J. Cole’s hometown in Fayetteville, NC. The song also has a surprise feature on it with NYC rapper Cam’ron. While this song is not as fast paced as i n t e r l u d e, it still has a good beat and has deep lyrics. The one complaint I had with this song was that at the end, the phrases “put your hood up” and “put your clique up” and other phrases are repeated over and over by Cam’ron and are somewhat repetitive and seem unnecessary.

The second song in the album, a m a r i, had a music video produced with it and compares his teen years to now and about how he “made it out”, which is basically another way of saying that you went from rags to riches. . He recalls speeding on the interstate trying to make it to class in time and how he went from owning a Honda, which is seen as a budget car brand by many, to owning a Rolls-Royce Wraith, which is seen to be a luxury car brand. The background sound in this song is some of the best in the album and Cole shows emotion in this song that had not been seen in the album yet.

J.Cole releases the tracklist for The Offseason before the full album release. (Photo Used Under the Fair Use Provision of the US Copyright Code)

m y . l i f e is the second song on the album that has other artists featured in it, this one with 21 Savage and Morray. Morray is featured in the song singing the chorus with J. Cole, which goes along nicely with the song that is faster paced and upbeat than the album had been so far. After the first chorus, 21 Savage has a long verse which sounded good, but was almost as long as Cole’s verse. The song itself was great but I would have liked to see a greater proportion of the song go to J. Cole.

A p p l y i n g . p r e s s u r e takes a different turn and sounds somewhat different than the songs that had preceded it. The beat in the background did not play as important of a role in the song, which makes the listener focus more on the lyrics of the song. This song talks mainly about how Cole started out as a struggling rapper back in the late 2000s until he signed his first big record label. The outro to the song, however, is too long. It makes up almost half of the song and doesn’t feature him rapping and instead has him talking about fake people.

P u n c h i n ‘ . t h e . c l o c k starts off by showcasing J.Cole’s love for basketball as he features NBA player Damien Lillard who also has a rap career outside of the NBA. Lillard is featured talking in the intro and outro. In the outro, Lillard seems to be talking about training and conditioning and how he can’t take time off or it will show. The song itself is somewhat fast paced and could compare to a song by Logic.

1 0 0 . m i l ‘ is another one of the songs in the album with a feature with Bas. In the song, the lyrics “one hundred mil’ and "I’m still on the grind” are repeated over and over. This refers to the fact that Cole charges around seven figures per show and has made over $100 million doing so and is still performing. This song was faster paced than the past two songs and had better background music but was somewhat repetitive with the lyrics mentioned above.

P r i d e . i s , t h e . d e v i l with Lil Baby features J.Cole talking about the downsides of pride and what it can do to a person. Lil Baby’s verse in this song is probably the best part of the song, which also talks about why it’s important to stay humble. The song to me feels like one that would mirror a song from Kanye West’s album, Jesus is King, with the slower and soft paced feel of the song.

Let . go . my . hand with Bas and 6lack is a soft song with a jazzy sounding background. The title of the song references Cole letting his son grow up and become his own man. The three have a great chorus in the end and Bas has a bridge part that goes along perfectly with the song.

The . climb . back is the longest song in the album at around five minutes long. Cole seems to be referencing a friend who was killed by violence and how he and his friends will go around at night and avenge his friend's death. The song doesn’t really feel like it’s five minutes long though as the listener gets so swept up in the lyrics of the song.

J.Cole credits his producers on the album. (Photo Used Under the Fair Use Provision of the US Copyright Code)

C l o s e references how J. Cole was always so close to being a star but never took shortcuts to get there faster. His rap style in this song sounds like the style that is commonly used by Kanye West, where he seems to proliferate the last couple of letters in the last word of every line. I personally liked this style from him and felt that it was nice to see him trying different styles in this album.

H u n g e r . o n . t h e . h i l l s i d e closes out the album and once again features Bas. The song starts out with a violin solo that then is turned into the background music. The first part of the song sounds somewhat soft while Cole is rapping, but then the second part is where Cole speeds up his rapping. The style that he employs in the end is one that mirrors Big Sean with how fast he goes in some parts and sounds almost like he’s rolling the words off when he’s rapping. The outro that is performed by Bas does not sound bad, but does sound like his voice is autotuned a little too much which is a style that is used not only in rap and rarely sounds good in my opinion.

Overall this was a great album by J. Cole. He pleasantly surprised us with features from other rappers like Lil Baby, 21 Savage, and Bas. It was hard to find aspects of this album that I didn’t like. The one thing that I found that could have been improved on is that some of the parts of the songs were repetitive at times and repeated the same line over and over. I would give this album an 8.5 out 10 and can’t wait to listen to his next album. Unfortunately, that could take a while because there was a three year period between KOD and his most recent album where Cole did not drop anything. Hopefully that does not repeat.

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