KOD. Officially the most I’ve gone back and forth on a single record, and for good reason. This record really is an anomaly – the cover art, the instrumentals, and themes that J Cole has never discussed before – it makes for an interesting listen to say the least.


Just to say this is an interesting listen is a statement for Cole – a rapper people often slander for being incredibly boring and tedious to listen to switches it up with this new project. Bright, trippy, and straightforward, this is easily Cole’s most digestible project, and close to his best.


Released on 4/20 and sporting a colorful album cover that features kids smoking, drinking, and popping pills, Cole makes clear the album’s message, and that’s to “Choose Wisely” how to deal with your pain. He’s not necessarily following an anti-drug mentality, rather a warning to young kids that altering your state of mind doesn’t always solve your problems.


Of course, there are more themes in this album, but just like every J Cole album, he stuffs one too many views, opinions, and narratives to fit in one 43 minute album. However, I will say that the music feels like he’s being more straight-to-the point than he actually is. This is Cole’s most urgent and trendy album by a landslide. Utilizing ethereal but trunk-knocking trap laced beats in place for the boom-bap and jazzy production he’s known for. Cole sounds like a pro spitting over these beats, bringing his trademark wordplay and world views into this druggy world he’s drafting after the many young Soundcloud rappers today.


A few of Cole’s new flows pay off here, as “Motiv8” results in a bouncy, bassy hit that, while lacking in his best bars, is one of most fun songs to date. In fact, the run of songs from “ATM”, to “Kevin’s Hart“ all provide some of Cole’s best qualities. “ATM” has some of Cole’s best flows, “Kevin’s Hart” features Cole’s storytelling at its peak performance, and “Motiv8” shows off Cole’s production chops. Beside these great songs, I can’t forget to mention “1985”, the closer that is a large summarization of the current state of rap, filled with dyed hair, xanax addiction and Johnny Dang jewels.


Overall, KOD is pretty good. Obviously never reaching the incredibly high expectations people place on J Cole, he still bites more than he can chew thematically on this album. However, it slaps, and it even has some of his best bars to date. I’d say while not as good as 2014 Forest Hills Drive, this is definitely one of his defining works.