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15.12.14

#MusicMonday: J. Cole's #2014ForestHillsDrive

J. Cole's 2014 Forest Hills Drive | Ses Rêveries

J. Cole is bae. That should be my new ad-lib. I finally got a cool ad-lib... currently raping Born Sinner again, obviously.

The people this post will interest have already been anticipating and now heard 2014 Forest Hills Drive so there is little need for an intro. Basically, our Jermaine pulled a rather polite Beyoncé last month, announcing his third studio album would be dropping on the 9th of December - with no singles or any of that malarkey (although it didn't quite go to plan thanks to a leak) - and now it's here.

2014 Forest Hills Drive, an old street address of his, is an intense collection of personal stories narrated with Bae's usual passionate poetry, clumsy honesty, studied compositional skills, socio-political awareness, tendency to pay homage (case in point) and obvious emotional intelligence - I could legitimately go on forever - with no credited featured artists at all. By current industry standards (insert transnational side eye to French Montana and co.), the album is pretty brilliant. With producer credits from the likes of Phonix Beats, !llmind, Nick Paradise, Cardiak and Jermaine himself, it's a breath of fresh air and the perfect way to close an otherwise slow year for Hip Hop.

However, looking at it critically, 2014 Forest Hills Drive is a little lacklustre in an overachieving came-too-soon (ahem) way. Most of my favourite tracks of his have been with or as a featured artist because he works amazingly well collaboratively. Whereas on his own, most of what you hear is promise; this undeniable potential from a really good rapper who just isn't quite there yet and doesn't know it yet. And now, here he is presenting an entire album with nothing but him. I mean, there's the usual rapper ego and then there's Hip Hop's Mr Relatable, our lovable philanthropic everyday-man with his down-to-earth musings and anti-fame persona telling you he's the twenty-first century's answer to Tupac. It hurts. Yes, I still absolutely love the album. I love how completely open he is (two words: Wet Dreamz) and his performance of Be Free on Letterman (see below)? Unforgettable. But punctuating the album with awkward self-affirmations just doesn't feel... right. If he had lived at 2016 Forest Hills Drive, I'm 100% certain I'd be saying differently. But he didn't, so here we are.

As a stan, I of course, hate myself right now for this post. I'm literally scared to read other reviews if even my ignorant self finds this project a little underwhelming. This is why I don't do albums. Let's move on, because even though I still love it, I feel like Judas Iscariot and it is not a nice feeling.

Back to the lovestruck teen fan-girling: you can listen to Bae speak about the album on NPR below - ladies, ensure you are in a state of complete self-control... because I was not, and ended up ping-ponging between squealing like a banshee and grinning like my teeth would burn my gums if I closed my mouth. I will never get those hours back - but they were all so worth it.

You can also check out his interview with Angie Martinez, the aforementioned David Letterman performance, his video tour of the house at 2014 Forest Hills Drive that he's now bought back (too precious) and stream the album via Spotify below.














Photo source: Rap-Up.com
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