Album Review: J Cole - "The Off-Season"
Written By: Mike Double G
Grade = 83% or 4 ⭐️
Track List - 39 minutes
1. 9 5 . s o u t h 3:17 ✅
2. a m a r i 2:29 ⭐️
3. m y . l i f e (J. Cole, 21 Savage, & Morray) 3:39 ⭐️
4. a p p l y i n g . p r e s s u r e 2:56 ⭐️
5. p u n c h i n ‘ . t h e . c l o c k 1:54 ✅
6. 1 0 0 . m i l ‘ (J. Cole & Bas) 2:42 ❌
7. p r i d e . i s . t h e . d e v i l (J. Cole & Lil Baby) 3:37 ⭐️
8. l e t . g o . m y . h a n d (ft. J. Cole, Bas, & 6LACK) 4:26 ✅
9. i n t e r l u d e 2:11 ✅
10. t h e . c l i m b . b a c k 5:04 ✅
11. c l o s e 2:49 ⭐️
12. h u n g e r . o n . h i l l s i d e (J. Cole & Bas) 3:57 ❌
Vocals by Cam’ron & Lil Jon on Track 1
Vocals by Damien Lillard on Track 5
Vocals by Diddy on Track 8
The last time J. Cole released a solo project was April of 2018. On Friday Cole dropped a LP titled The Off-Season. There are definitely basketball implications when it comes the title and the albums cover. The digital cover art shows J. Cole standing in front of basketball hoop that is on fire. While this is obvious, J. Cole actually explained the title from a rappers perspective in his new documentary Applying Pressure: The Off-Season. J. Cole stated that he gave the album its name because he considers this project just a warm up to his next album The Fall Off. While this may be true J. Cole actually recorded this album during the off-season.
J. Cole recently signed a deal to play in the African basketball league. He will play 3-6 games for the Rwanda Patriots. Many people think that Cole is doing this just to promote his album but Cole’s album is going to sell whether he has a basketball contract or not. What’s interesting is J. Cole can actually play and has been training to do so. Cole is a respectable 6’2 which is ideal size for a point guard but he will be playing mostly as an undersized shooting guard. On YouTube you can find videos of him working on his shot and it’s looking legit.
J. Cole was even the first solo artist to be on the cover of SLAM Magazine. Many basketball players have tried rapping and even a few have been pretty good at it. Shaq, Kobe, Lou Williams, Iman Shumpert, Damien Lillard, and Kawhi Leonard have all tried rapping. Right now many people around the NBA and the rap community would say Damien Lillard is the best rapper in the NBA. Besides Lillard, Iman Shumpert has also been showing off his skills. Shumpert is married to R&B star Teyana Taylor. On her LP The Album Shumpert spit a verse on her single “Wake Up Love”. Even two time NBA champion Kawhi Leonard is looking to try his hand at rapping. He recently went online to tease new music for his upcoming album.
Many people have tried to do both but no one has become a star at both. The closest would probably be Dave East. The rap star once played division one basketball and was Kevin Durant’s AAU teammate. He quit basketball to pursue a rap career and he clearly made the right decision. Another success story would be Master P who in the late 1990’s played for both the Charlotte Hornets and Toronto Raptors.
J. Cole is considered one of the best rappers in the game but he doesn’t exactly have the accolades to back it up. The same could be said for Drake. They might not have all the trophies but they’ve had the talent and consistency to stay relevant for over a decade now. J. Cole and 21 Savage won a Grammy for best rap song of 2019 with the record “A Lot”. Other than that, Cole has 12 nominees but no other wins. In my opinion he should have won best rap album in 2015. At the 58th Annual Grammy Awards. J. Cole’s LP 2014 Forest Hills Drive lost to Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly”.
When talking about the best rappers in the game three names usually come up. Drake, Kendrick Lamar, and J. Cole. Drake is the most popular and Kendrick might be the best rapper but J. Cole has been nothing but consistent with his albums. J. Cole has managed to put together a very solid discography with out having to use to many features. One of the reasons that 2014 Forest Hills Drive is considered his best album is because it was nominated for a Grammy with out having any features. On his new album Cole went in a slightly different direction by putting features on 5 of his 12 songs. For most rappers this wouldn’t be a lot but by J. Cole standards it’s an abundance.
Although not considered features, the intro to this album 9 5 . s o u t h includes vocals from Cam’ron and Lil Jon. This is the perfect kind of song to get you hyped for the rest of the album. Don’t be surprised is you hear NBA teams listening to this song during warm ups. The next track a m a r i is my favorite. In a m a r i Cole uses basketball references like:
Now I'm at the Garden sittin' half court Watchin' Jr. catch it off the backboard.
JR is Dennis Smith Jr. who comes from J. Cole’s hometown Fayetteville, North Carolina. Dennis Smith Jr. jumped over J. in the 2019 dunk contest which was held at Madison Square Garden. Another basketball reference in this song is when he says::
Kill 'em on a song, walk up out the booth, do the Westbrook rock-a-baby.
The rock-a-baby is a taunt Westbrook uses against his opponents. Cole simply uses this line to flex on other rappers who are simply not on his level.
J. Cole has some of his strongest bars on track 2 but what’s different is he starts experimenting with his voice. This sound is new to J. Cole but it’s enabled him to keep his music sounding fresh. In 2019 J. Cole went a tour with Young Thug and even executive produced Thug’s first solo LP So Much Fun. Both are going to do down as two of the most influential rappers of there generation so it’s easy to imagine them sharing advice and picking each other brains. J. Cole is one of the best lyricist in the game and no one is better than Young Thug when it comes to changing and contorting his voice.
The first big features comes in on track 3 m y . l i f e. The hook is sung by new artist Morray. J. Cole and the Quicksand rapper/singer share a Fayetteville, North Carolina connection. Cole’s co-sign helped lead Morray to a deal with interscope records. The hook is a spin on Style P’s song The Life”. The other artist on this song is 21 Savage. It only made sense that 21 Savage appeared on the album after there song A Lot won a Grammy. The last time J. Cole had a big name artist on his album was in 2013. 50 Cent, Kendrick Lamar, Miguel, and Jhene Aiko were featured on on his sophomore album Born Sinner. On m y . l i f e” Cole uses another basketball reference by shouting out Memphis Grizzly Ja Morant.
21 Savage wasn’t the only mainstream artist to appear on this album. Both Lil Baby and 6LACK made the album as well. Lil Baby has a verse on p r i d e . i s . t h e . d e v i l. Cole has been very critical of younger rappers in the game. He has stated that many of them are drug addicts who won’t last because they are riding trends. This was a huge theme on his last album KOD. Which some say stood for Kids On Drugs or Killer Overdose. Putting Lil Baby on this album demonstrates that he doesn’t feel that way about EVERY young rapper. He also stated in his documentary that he doesn’t want to look back at his career and realize he didn’t work with any one. It seems he has become a little more open minded when it comes to collaborating and he proved it on this project.
On the song p r i d e . i s . t h e . d e v i l J. Cole reflects on his own pride and goes on to talk about how feelings of self-importance has led to the downfall of many. This song starts humbly but finishes with both artist flexing on how much money they have. On the last two lines of the bridge J Cole says:
Got racks on racks, I'm rackin’ up, stackin' up You're reachin', I’m actin' up
...after this line Baby immediately goes into the second verse saying:
Break it down, weigh it up, now bag it up. Making five a month, that's regular.
6LACK and Dreamville artist Bas appear on the song l e t . g o . m y . h a n d. A song which also includes vocals from Diddy. In this song J. Cole addresses an incident between him and Diddy. J Cole raps:
My last scrap was with Puff Daddy, who would've thought it? I bought that nigga album in seventh grade and played it so much You would've thought my favorite rapper was Puff.
In August 2013, there were rumors that Cole and Diddy fought at an MTV Music Awards after-party. The crews of Cole and Diddy’s did get into a scuffle when Cole tried to intervene in an argument between Diddy and Kendrick Lamar. It seems Cole and Diddy have squashed the beef since Diddy makes an appearance on this song. On the outro to the song Diddy prays to the lord and asks him for guidance. This is fitting since J. Cole admits to dabbling with different religions in the first verse of this song. He says:
My homie constantly telling me 'bout Quran, puttin' me on. I read a few pages and recognize the wisdom in it But I ain't got the discipline for stickin' with it
J. Cole has always been about quality over quantity. In 9 5 . s o u t h he even threw in a punchline saying:
Look how everybody clappin' when your thirty-song album do a measly hundred thou.
This past year, rappers like Lil Uzi Vert, NAV, and Lil Keed have released albums that have more than 30 songs when the deluxe version of the album is finally released. There was a debate on whether NAV should be credited with a number one album after his deluxe version was counted towards the first week album sales. The original version of the album had 18 songs and a week later he added another 14 songs with the deluxe. J. Cole’s album has only 12 songs running just over 39 minutes but he will still get enough streams to be credited with his 6th number one album.
J. Cole dropped another very strong album. I would have like to seen maybe one more star feature rather than putting his artist Bas on three of the songs. Bas sounded good on l e t . g o . m y . h a n d but he also appeared on the albums two weakest songs. On songs like 100 . m i l and h u n g e r . o n . h i l l s i d e it felt like Cole was trying to do a little too much as far as singing. The verses to those songs also weren’t up to par with the rest of the album. Overall, this album is on the same level as with his last LP KOD. Both are 4 ⭐️ albums but I’d give The Off-Season a slight edge, 83 - 82 percent .
Best Song = a m a r i
Download: The Off-season
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