With back to back to back platinum albums, rap artist J. Cole has found nothing but success in the 11 years of his music career. He can only hope to recreate this same success with his newest album “KOD.” The album released on April 20, and, sticking with the theme of his previous two projects, it boasts no features. Actually, that is not necessarily true, as the album does feature kiLL edward, who is actually just an ominous-voiced alter ego of Cole’s.
The album’s name, “KOD,” has three meanings behind it that Cole revealed through the social networking app Twitter. KOD means “kids on drugs,” “king overdose,” and “kill our demons.” In this project, Cole is showing life through the viewpoint of an addict, an interesting take as addiction is one of the biggest problems our country faces. Cole speaks on using drug and drinking to numb the pain that he feels from all the horrible things he has been through and seen in his life. He also even delves deeper to touch on diverse topics such as taxes, heartbreak, and the government.
Overall, I loved this album, and I felt that the story Cole tells is extremely relatable and that is what connects his fans to him so much. As drug addiction and abuse are huge problems in this country, I find it relieving to see such a huge and mainstream artist as J. Cole touching on the subject, especially during a time where most music promotes drug use and the sale of drugs. Cole demonstrates some of his best storytelling on this album and to me is at his peak lyrically. Being a huge fan of J. Cole for some time, this album is refreshing and reminds me of what made me love his music in the first place.
In-Depth Song Review
Cole starts the album with a beautiful intro that features a soothing and jazzy trumpet with a sinister woman’s voice floating over it. The woman ends the intro with a message that reoccurs throughout this project, “choose wisely.” This is referring to how people need a way to cope with their pain and the struggle some face in life, and Cole is saying that he understands this, but that you do not have to resort to substance.
Moving onto the album’s title track, “KOD,” Cole gets the energy up with a bass-heavy instrumental and braggadocious lyrics. The rapper also elaborates on the drugs that surrounded his environment early in his life. On the next track, “Photograph,” Cole criticizes new age social media and love as he tells a story of him attempting to get with a girl he saw online. He also seems to play with the idea that social media is a drug, relating to the album’s theme.
The next track gives its audience their first taste of Cole’s alter ego kiLL edward, who is supposed to represent the demons in his life. “The Cut Off” stays true to its name and talks about Cole having to cut people off who were close to him due to lack of trust and being taken advantage of. After this comes “ATM,” in which Cole discusses the thrill and exhilaration he feels from making money and also relates it to drug use as he talks about the “high” that can be felt with monetary gain.
The next track, “Motiv8,” is one of the album’s simpler songs, as Cole is just talking about motivation to go make money. Following this, however, is “Kevin’s Heart,” where Cole raps from the stance of a person in love with drugs. Throughout he also relates the use of drugs to potentially cheating on his partner. This track could also be a reference to Kevin Hart, a comedian, and actor who admitted to cheating on his wife.
On track number eight, “BRACKETS,” Cole gets political as he talks about his journey up the tax bracket. He mentions how he feels that so much money is taken from him yet he does not know where it goes. Cole shares his idea that people should be able to choose where their taxes go from an app on their phone, an interesting point. He also uses this song to focus on underprivileged communities of color who are ignored by leaders they have never seen.
Track number nine, “Once an Addict – Interlude,” shows Cole going deeper than he has shown so far on this album. He discusses the development of his feelings concerning his mother’s relationship with alcoholism. He describes the horrors of coming home to his mother out of control and watching her being consumed by addiction. Cole also uses the interlude to discuss how he also deals with drugs and substances like alcohol in his personal circle. He ends up reminiscing and wishing that he had interfered more.
The second track to feature kiLL edward, “FRIENDS,” is a mellow, almost drugged-out sounding track, where Cole talks about why drugs are such a huge problem in the United States. He also shares some advice, saying that people should meditate instead of medicating, suggesting that drugs can be avoided with healthier substitutions. The eleventh track and outro of the album, “Window Pain – Outro,” starts off with the powerful narrative of a little girl who details the story of her cousin being shot. For a majority of this song, Cole is self-reflective and contemplative as he discusses the things he truly wishes for in life. Cole also understands how fortunate he is and he is very grateful for what his life has given him.
Oddly enough, there is another song that follows the outro. This is “1985 – Intro to ‘The Fall Off.’” On this track, Cole addresses young up-and-coming rapper Lil Pump, who dissed him many times before, saying “F*ck J. Cole” and also discrediting lyrical rap. Cole, instead of attacking the young rapper, tries to share some advice and help him with some of the problems he may be struggling with. Although Cole does seem to come at Pump in the last two bars of the song, saying, “Just remember what I told you when your sh*t flop / In five years you gon’ be on Love & Hip-Hop.”