Review: J. Cole – KOD

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60%
60
Mediocre

KOD is not quite the eccentric and politically driven album that we've come to expect from J. Cole, but it still just about does the job.

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‘Mr. I went platinum with no features’,  J. Cole has returned with new album KOD. The latest release sees the popular conscientious rapper deliver his fifth official studio album, but unfortunately, it does not live up to the high standards that the Frankfurt-born artist has so far set up for himself.

The follow up to 2016’s 4 Your Eyez Only was only announced a handful of days prior to KOC’s release, and as a result fans were whipped up into a frenzy of anticipation, however it looks like the hype may die down as quickly as it came. With the rapper taking to Twitter to write that the acronymic KOC stands for “Kids on Drugs / King Overdosed / Kill Our Demons” the supposed meanings of the title are as wishy-washy as the music itself. A somewhat repetitive album, Cole glides through a mere 45 minutes’ worth of lyrically driven tracks that are devoid of any theatrical musicality. Whilst the album maintains J. Cole’s trademark introspection and offers a stripped back simplistic hip-hop ideal, ultimately KOD is lacking in drama and ambition. ‘ATM’ adds a jazzy element to the album with the introduction of the piano and a comparatively high tempo and is arguably the high point of the record. That being said, Cole living in a country so divided and politically active, there is no end to possible motivation for a much more assertive and poignant album that I, at least, was hoping for. In terms of positives, what would normally be considered the bane of any rap or hip-hop album, the intro, interlude, and outro are actually successfully and intelligently deployed. The interlude ‘Once an Addict’ is emotional and heartfelt, as Cole tells us of his feeling of futility as he watched his mother take to alcoholism.

Renowned for his reluctance to utilise special guests in his albums, fans must have been pretty excited to see a featured artist on the track listing for KOD. Some online sleuthing, however, has purported that the relatively unheard of featured artist kiLL Edward is, in fact, J. Cole unashamedly distorting his own voice by slowing it down. That being said, it should be pretty evident from the title track’s lyrics “How come you won’t get a few features – I think you should?” to which he replies “How about I don’t? How about you just get the fuck off my dick?” Whilst this cheeky addition is some first class novelty trivia, the alter-ego adds relatively little to what is a very mediocre album, and is barely noticeable in the two songs that he appears on, ‘The Cut Off’ and ‘Friends’.

As a whole, KOD is far from a bad album, but as we come closer and closer to J. Cole’s headline set at this year’s Wireless Festival, we can only hope that KOC translates onto the live scene slightly more convincingly.

KOD is out now via Dreamville

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