Opinion | Bona Fide | “KOD”

A review of J. Cole’s “KOD”


J. Cole dropped “KOD,” April 20.

WARNING: “KOD” contains heavy themes and strong language. It is in no way intended to glorify addiction.

J. Cole delivers his most thoughtful and insightful album to date: “KOD.” While he keeps up-to-date to the standards of modern hip-hop, April 20.

Being 33 years old, J. Cole has been in the rap game for awhile and still, his albums seem to only increase in quality with each release. The ever-praised “2014 Forest Hills Drive” (2014) was Cole at his best. I did not believe he could top his best-selling album.

“KOD” is Cole’s masterpiece.

Cole lays his entire life on the 42-minute LP and his ultimately profound take on addiction, growing into himself and the current world in which we reside.

The introduction “Intro” perfectly engulfs the atmosphere for “KOD:” a torment of addiction and self-preservation.

“Can someone please turn off my mind?/My thoughts are racing all the time/There is no reason or no rhyme/I’m trapped inside myself.”

“KOD,” the title track, brings the LP to scope and grabs the listener without letting go for the entirety of the the album.

“How I grew up, only few would’ve loved/’Member I got my first view of the blood/I’m hangin’ out and they shoot up the club/My homie got pharmaceutical plug/I smoke the drug and it run through my vein/I think it’s workin’, it’s numbin’ the pain.”

Although Cole used drugs to “numb” his pain, “KOD” puts a focus on how drugs set him and those he loves on a downward spiral.

With “KOD,” Cole has mastered rap to its potential, resembling classic rap: honest, thought-provoking, soulful and most of all connects with its audience.

I’ve listened to the album 10-15 times since its release, and I can already guarantee it will be one of the best albums of the year.

“FRIENDS” which features Cole’s alter-ego (kiLL edward) takes on addiction and its effects. The writing is exceptional and illustrates addiction’s demon-like qualities.

“There’s all sorts of trauma from drama that children see/Type of s**t that normally would call for therapy/But you know just how it go in our community/Keep that s**t inside it don’t matter how hard it be/Fast forward, them kids is grown and they blowing trees/And popping pills due to chronic anxiety/I been saw the problem but stay silent ’cause I ain’t Jesus/This ain’t no trial if you desire go higher please/But f**k that now I’m older I love you ’cause you my friend/Without the drugs I want you be comfortable in your skin/I know you so I know you still keep a lot of s**t in/You running from yourself and you buying product again/I know you say it helps and no I’m not trying to offend/But I know depression and drug addiction don’t blend/Reality distorts and then you get lost in the wind/And I done seen the combo take n****s off the deep end/One thing about your demons they bound to catch up one day/I’d rather see you stand up and face them than run away/I understand this message is not the coolest to say/But if you down to try it I know of a better way/Meditate.”

The themes in “KOD” are the most relevant and important themes to come out of a rap album in years. Cole takes on addiction, the evolution of rap and how kids perceive their idols and their world around them.

“1985 (Intro to ‘The Fall Off’)” destroys every mumble rapper in the game, stating their flaws and impact on society and how their relevance will be short-lived with the simplistic themes of women, drugs and/or fortune portrayed in their songs.

One day, them kids that’s listening gon’ grow up/And get too old for that s**t that made you blow up/Now your show’s lookin’ light cause they don’t show up/Which unfortunately means the money slow up/Now you scramblin’ and hopin’ to get hot again/But you forgot you only popped ’cause you was ridin’ trends/Now you old news and you goin’ through regrets/’Cause you never bought that house, but you got a Benz/And a bunch of jewels and a bunch of shoes/And a bunch of fake friends, I ain’t judgin’ you/I’m just tellin’ you what’s probably gon’ happen when you rappin’/’Bout the type of s**t you rappin’ ’bout/It’s a faster route to the bottom/I wish you good luck/I’m hoping for your sake that you ain’t dumb as you look

Although rap has turned into something of a behemoth, with over half of the songs on the Hot 100 Billboard Charts being rap, Cole stays true to his point of view and how he perceives the world in front of him while regarding what has become of the genre.

But possibly the most impactful song (or interlude) of “KOD” takes on Cole’s conflict with his mother’s addiction growing up. The track draws no boundaries revealing the most personal of demons. “Once an Addict (Interlude)” is the most lyrically-sensitive track, as Cole’s struggle to rap his own lyrics is prominent in his voice.

“But now it’s 1 AM and my mama dialin’ my phone/I know she intoxicated and soon this high that I’m on comes crashin’ down/She lit, talkin’ drunk s**t, I’m p****d/But I’m still all ears like Basset Hounds/Thinkin’ to myself, “Maybe my mama need help/Don’t she got work in the morning?/Why she do this to herself?/Hate how she slurrin’ her words/Soundin’ so f****n’ absurd/This ain’t the woman I know, why I just sit and observe?/Why don’t I say how I feel?/When I do, she’s defensive for real/Well maybe things get better with time, I heard it heals/Little did I know how deep her sadness would go/Lookin’ back, I wish I woulda did more instead of runnin’.”

“KOD” took me by surprise. I expected another J. Cole album: everyone would love it, I would like it and it would sell a trillion copies. But one of those assumptions has changed: I absolutely adored “KOD.”

Cole has grown and carefully shares his perspective through an album that WILL stand the test of time 30 years from now. Don’t take my work for it; listen to “KOD” for yourself. It is a holy grail in rap.

You can stream or purchase your copy of “KOD” here.