Review: J. Cole – The Off Season

J. Cole: The Off-Season

Look what time it is… It’s COLE Season!

Yep, it’s been about 3 years since J. Cole’s last album, KOD, which was one of my first reviews of the site. I remember being very lukewarm on it and not caring enough to go back to it. Cole has kept himself busy during the years in between with the release of the third Dreamville compilation album, Revenge of the Dreamers III and well… foolishly made the track “Snow in the Bluff” targeting Noname, who in return released a response that shut him down in no less than a minute and some change.

Now here we are at his 6th studio album to date, and no it is not The Fall Off as some were speculating, although I keep hearing that’s the album he’ll make once he retires, and that keeps on circulating as well.

And like usual, we had a week’s notice of it dropping. So now here we are with The Off Season, and the question is… is he off on this album?

Well already, people are proclaiming this album to be The Album of the Year by many J.Cole fans and stans after one listen, and of course you got the others who look at J. Cole as overrated, mediocre or a very average rapper that says a lot of things that’ve already been said better by other rappers, but his core audience eats it up.

Yeah, I’m still on the latter side here, but this album is slightly more tolerable than his last two efforts.

It’s called The Off-Season in reference to the period of time when an athlete has a break from the regular season but still works to hone and improve their skills. My guess is that unlike the previous J. Cole albums, this one doesn’t have a narrative or any obvious concept. It’s pretty much him rapping all about the usual commonplace topics in hip-hop like his skills as a rapper, the telling of the come-up, hip-hop in general in terms of being braggadocios, etc. It sounds like the usual stuff from him, but here, he has improved on his rapping and flows in some tracks.

This shit too easy for me now
Nigga, Cole been goin’ plat’ since back when CDs was around
What you sold, I tripled that, I can’t believe these fuckin’ clowns

Look how everybody clappin’ when your thirty-song album do a measly hundred thou’

Could put a M right on your head, you Luigi brother now

We seen dilemmas like Nelly and Kelly that end in the deadliest fashion
My young niggas nutty, they blastin’
Bullets be hummin’ like Cudi but one of yo’ hoodies Spaghetti-O splashin’
All over the driveway, y’all talkin’ all sideways

That came from the first track, “9 5 . s o u t h,” and it was a pretty OK opener that basically goes over most of the things I mentioned earlier. It’s maybe a bit cheesy with some of its references like the Luigi line but it’s something interesting on there.

“m y l i f e” is about both the struggles of the come-up and him making it big in his career, following what might be his retirement if that happens, and then we have 21 Savage who — wait… oh yeah, there’s another factor here that’s different from his previous albums… FEATURES!!

21 Savage has a verse on here talking about how his past life traumatized him with friends dying and how he and his crew don’t participate in beef nor in squashing it (the only solution basically being homicide) while saying he’s got a good heart by sending teddy bears to the mothers of the enemies he murdered. That’s some dark stuff, and to be fair I think 21 Savage his improved on his rapping as of late with his verse being pretty lively as well as Morray providing part of the chorus with Cole, although I think Morray’s part is better.

I should mention that in “9 5 . s o u t h,” Cam’ron is the hypeman in the opening with a sample of Lil Jon’s “Put Yo Hood Up” in the end, and a beat that is very similar to that one Jay-Z track, “U Don’t Know” off The Blueprint. “1 0 0 . m i l ’” is about Cole wanting to improve on his rapping skills even if he’s already achieving success, trying to top himself every time. Plus, some sources say that his net worth is worth over that much.

There’s  “p r i d e . i s . t h e . d e v i l” where he focuses on how pride can drive himself and others while being fortunate to have what he has achieved, and for another guest feature, we have Lil’ Baby doing his usual quick rapping here but in a way where it sounds like he’s rushing to the finish line, and his verse was good for what the track is. Oh, and yes I did notice that this is the same beat Amine used on his track, “Can’t Decide”.

I can beat ’em, I believe in me, just tell me what’s the bet
All my pride gone, had to lose it all then I got rich
I own five homes, glad some of this shit starting to make sense
I’m staying hella focused and I can’t forget the bigger picture

We then have the one single released prior to the album, “i n t e r l u d e”, where he covers topics ranging from personal trauma and the pain of loss to death and religion, especially with these set of lyrics.

My homie’ homie got out on parole
He sold more Coca-Cola than the soda industry

Summertime bring the coldest winter breeze
Hella blues like the Rollin’ 60s

Christ went to Heaven age thirty-three
And so did Pimp C and so did Nipsey

I could talk more about this album except there isn’t much to go deep in to be frankly honest. Yes, this album does provide some content by being introspective about what he went through in both his past and present career and that’s fine, but there’s nothing deep or profound about it. Sure, it’s good to have stuff like this, but it does get less special and very typical to do, just like if any hip-hop record goes over a lot of materialistic flexing and flaunting. This is a serviceable hip-hop record with production that provides a balance of modern and classic hip-hop elements with Cole handling some of the production as expected with other producers like T-Minus, Boi-1da, Jake One, DJ Dahi among others.

FINAL VERDICT: STREAM IT. At this point, if you’re already a fan, you’re going to love it. Anybody else….. well, results may vary.

THE OFF-SEASON is on Roc Nation/Dreamville/Interscope Records and is available on CD, digital download and streaming services.

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