Whether you choose to call it Kids on Drugs, King Overdosed, or Kill Our Demons, KOD is an album with a lot to take from it, depending on what you’re looking for. It’s a collection of exuberant tracks that document J. Cole’s view on his personal demons, the current political climate, today’s state of rappers, and a whole bunch of other stuff. But, along the way, it successfully juggles securing it’s authenticity and being undeniably relatable.
J. Cole is one of the most polarizing artists in Hip-Hop. If you check out the #JCole tag on your favorite social media platform, you’re going to find both people who worship the ground he walks on and those who call him the worst rapper on the planet. My favorite J. Cole tweet I’ve discovered over the past week is this hilarious (and, in my opinion, true) number:
J. Cole music isn’t for everybody, you need a certain amount of student loans to understand his music
— murdR• (@Hella_steez) April 20, 2018
But, contrary to popular belief, KOD isn’t just for those who drink Perrier water and swear to use at least three SAT words throughout the day. I believe that KOD is J. Cole’s most commercially influenced effort since 2014’s 2014 Forest Hills Drive. Throughout the tape, Cole plays around with a trap flow that everyone (and their momma and cousin too) have dipped in recently. It’s affectionately called the “Ayy!” flow. If you’re struggling to remember what exactly I’m talking about, check out this video from Rap Genius that explains the trend quite well.
The first instance of this flow on the track listing is on the track “Photograph,” which is a love letter to love and infatuation in the digital age. It’s a slow, deconstructed groove accompanied by an electric guitar-esque loop that makes J Cole’s lines shine. If you’ve ever thirst followed on Instagram, you’re going to see yourself within the lines of this track.
“Fell in love with photograph
I don’t even know your name
Wonder if you’d follow back
I hope to see you one day.” – J. Cole (“Photograph”)
Other tracks that have an undeniable Trap influence are “ATM,” “Motiv8,” and the title track “KOD.” They’re all tracks with bombastic Trap drums and charismatic flows that you could easily slip into a playlist with songs by Rich the Kid and Lil Uzi Vert. That one friend that tells you XXXTentacion is the best rapper alive wouldn’t even know the difference.
If you’re looking for tracks to ride to turn-up to, then Cole has those tracks gift wrapped for you within KOD.
But, if you’re one to deep dive into Cole’s lyrical mastery at every chance you can, then there’s definitely gems for you to dissect.
The track “BRACKETS” has a heavy dose of soul food for the listener, with seasoned lyrics such as:
“The curriculum be tricking them; them dollars I spend;
Got us learning about the heroes with the whitest of skin
One thing about the men that’s controlling the pen;
That write history; they always seem to white-out they sins
Maybe we’ll never see a black man
in the White House again.” – J. Cole (“BRACKETS”)
On the surface, the track seems to just be about taxes. We all hate paying taxes and coughing up a piece of our dough to messy, messy Uncle Sam. But, when looking beneath the surface, it’s more about how the Black community is being forced to fund a nation that’s isn’t making their life a priority.
Or not. Maybe those are those pesky SAT words getting my mind caught up.
Another track drenched in lyrical gold is the interlude “Once an Addict.” It’s a short track with a ghostly, eerie beat that details his recognition of his mother’s alcoholism.
An endless tit for tat with our undeniable demons is something that we all struggle with as human beings. From the allure of temptation detailed in “Kevin’s Heart” to the endless pursuit of the almighty dollar in “ATM,” it’s all things that we’ve experienced before. Sometimes we want to forget about the demons that we deal with day in and day out. This album gives us the soundtrack for both.
KOD is a great package of life experiences that delivers in three key factors: lyrical content, instrumentals, and fun. And for Cole to single-handedly run with this album, it says a lot about where J. Cole’s place is within Hip-Hop. Regardless what people like Lil Pump might say, Cole’s not losing a throne any time soon. – Nia Simone