J. Cole - 2014 Forest Hills Drive (Review)

J. Cole - 2014 Forest Hills Drive (Review)

"2014 Forest Hills Drive" is the latest album from Fayetteville, North Carolina rapper J. Cole. The album features no guest appearances, but does feature production from !llmind, Willie B., Vinylz, Phonix Beats and others with many songs being produced by J. Cole himself. It was released on December 9, 2014 via Roc Nation LLC.

1) Intro - Sung intro setting up the album. This is ok, for what it is. - 3/5

2) January 28th - The first real song on the album finds J. Cole touching on a variety of topics over a sort of murky soul sample and mellow drums. The self-produced beat is real good and the rhymes are as well, but this song just seems to be lacking a little of something. Still, not bad at all. - 3.25/5

3) Wet Dreamz - J. Cole spits some very personal rhymes about the anticipation of having sex for the first time over a self-produced instrumental full of swirling violins, a subtle vocal loop and stomping drums. The beat is dope and the rhymes are vivid, though kind of awkward. Still, I like this one. - 4/5

4) 03' Adolescence - The beat on this track, courtesy of Willie B, is real nice, with some twinkling synths and a spacey backdrop over extremely mellow drums. As far as the rhymes go, J. Cole flows nicely over the instrumental and raps about the insecurities and thoughts he had as an adolescent. I'm feelin' this one as well. Very dope. - 4/5

5) A Tale of 2 Citiez - This song gets it's title from the Charles Dickens novel of the same name, with J. Cole substituting the cities of London and Paris for his hometown of Fayetteville and New York City. The beat, by Vinylz, is pretty mellow, but it has more of a trap feel than any of the others so far. The sample is kind of ominous and the bass hits hard, but most of the chorus is cringe-worthy and and J. Cole's stories of trying to strike it rich seem forced despite fitting into the overall story of the album. This one just isn't working for me. - 2/5

6) Fire Squad - Now this is much better. This cut finds J. Cole spitting fire over a hard ass self-produced instrumental (with co-production from Vinylz) that has my head nodding like crazy. Cole really goes off on here, spitting his rhymes with a passion while trying to recapture the hunger he felt during his come-up in the rap game, which fits into this part of the story nicely. This ones a banger. - 4/5

7) St. Tropez - The self-produced beat on this song incorporates the same sample as Mobb Deep's classic track "Give Up The Goods", but flips it very differently as J. Cole attempts to make it own. Too bad the rest of the song is not as good as the production, with J. Cole singing over the beat about how he is about to make it big and about his fears. This one just ends up going nowhere though. Bleh. - 2/5

8) G.O.M.D. - This song finds J. Cole spitting rapid-fire about having his newly found fame go to his head over an instrumental that I'm just not feeling at all. The rhymes are actually pretty damn good (especially the second and third verses where he kind of realizes that he is losing control), but the beat is just not clicking with me and the hook is terrible. I'll never listen to this again in my life. - 1.5/5

9) No Role Modelz - This cut isn't quite as bad as the previous tracks and features J. Cole rhyming about growing up without a stable role model over a somewhat forgettable Phonix Beats instrumental. The production is borderline bland and the rhymes are just ok as well. Eh, I'm not really feelin' this. - 2.5/5

10) Hello - J. Cole gets all gloomy on here as he realizes his life isn't turning out quite as he expected and sings about trying to reconnect with an old flame. The production on here is kind of cool, with the beat starting out with a somber piano and minimal drums before building up into a fury during the bridge and second verse (which is actually a pretty good verse), but as a whole the song just doesn't entirely work for me. It's not terrible, but it's not great. - 3/5

11) Apparently - J. Cole and Omen collaborate on the production for this song, which is centered around a nice piano loop, soulful backing vocals and deep bass. The beat is pretty dope and the rhymes/singing from J. Cole are as well as he kicks some heartfelt bars about his life and faith. I wasn't really feelin' this track the first few times I heard it, but it definitely grew on me in the end and turns out being one of the albums better tracks. Yeah, I like this. - 3.5/5

12) Love Yourz - !llmind, Cardiak and CritCal come through with the beat on this cut, featuring a nice piano loop that has a kind of somber feel to it and ends up being another one of the better beats on here. Lyrically the song is really dope as well, with J. Cole kicking some more heartfelt rhymes about love and happiness as well as about his struggles. I'm really liking this one. - 4/5

13) Note to Self - The final song on the album finds J. Cole singing over a soulful piano-based instrumental and then doing shout-outs for the last eleven or so minutes of the song. The production is good enough and the singing is ok, but this is just meh for me. - 2/5

I'm going to rate the album

3 / 5

because there are some really good tracks on here, but there are a few really bad ones as well. The production is on point for the most part, with J. Cole (and guests) delivering lush instrumentals that play as much a part in the story as the rhymes do. The best ones have a real mellow, soulful vibe to them that allows J. Cole to really shine with his rhymes. Speaking of the lyrics, J. Cole definitely rips a few of the tracks on here while trying to keep with the overall story of the album. Some of the songs work, others don't. I know it's all a part of the story about how Cole starts to get a big head and party too much (on "G.O.M.D", for example), but the songs still have to be enjoyable. Overall the album turned out pretty average for me, with moments of greatness interspersed between moments of mediocrity.


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