Illustration by Mia Turner
On April 20, rapper and influential hip hop extraordinaire J. Cole released a new album: KOD. During the week prior to its’ release, Cole hinted at the album by showcasing its’ name and the iconic cover art that features a powerful J. Cole sitting atop his throne. The influential artist has made a name for himself through albums such as 2014 Forest Hills Drive and 4 Your Eyez Only, which was released last year. His music’s reputation is one of controversy.
Much of it revolves around his world view and includes content related to issues of heavy importance in America such as race relations. KOD was no exception to this pattern. Instead of focusing on the rhythmic and musical aspects of the album, Cole decided to concentrate his efforts on the meaning behind his lyrics. The album is deep and powerful, but is not quite the enjoyable experience that most hip hop fans look forward to when turning the volume up on their earbuds.
When asked exactly what KOD means, J. Cole was readily prepared with a quick response. He said that the acronym stands for Kids On Drugs, King Overdose and Kill our Demons. “The rest of the album I leave to your interpretation,” he added.
From drug addiction (KOD) to personal stories regarding adultery (Kill our Demons) to his detrimental experience atop the rap pedestal (King Overdose), KOD features a vast array of Cole’s experiences and perspectives.
At times, the underlying musical aspects of the song seem to resemble traits of funk. Songs on the album such as “ATM” create a tone reminiscent of a drug-induced high. Other songs feature a more modern, almost hard beat for Cole to rap over. However, relative to Cole’s most popular album, 2014 Forest Hills Drive, the difference in focus on the instrumentals is grand.
The song that stands out the most on KOD is the final tune: “1985 – Intro to The Fall Off.” This track was intended as a response to negative comments that other young rapper Lil Pump made towards J. Cole. It was not like other typical diss tracks however. This song mentioned J. Cole’s experience as a young rapper and how the fame and fortune for a guy like Lil Pump might just suddenly disappear. Cole also instructed Pump to think more about the impact of what he raps about. Personally, I enjoyed this song as it resonated with many of my thoughts on the current direction of hip hop as a result of Instagram rappers like Lil Pump.
J. Cole’s new album KOD features many certain hits. As per usual, his message is at the forefront of what he raps about. While his instrumentals were not amazing, they still were up to par with what’s needed for top-caliber music. Cole’s focus on sharing his truth will continue to put him at the top of rap with peers like Kendrick Lamar and Drake.