Release Date: Dec 9, 2014
Record label: Roc Nation
In a surprise announcement last month, J. Cole revealed he would be releasing his third LP 2014 Forest Hills Drive via Roc Nation, with nary a single to the album's name. The record, named after his last childhood home in Fayetteville, North Carolina — which he recently repurchased after its foreclosure a decade ago — serves as a standstill moment of history that bridges childhood memories to current success, interpolating tales of lust, confusion, growth and gratitude.J.
There is enough packed inside 2014 Forest Hills Drive to make your palms sweat, urging for J. Cole to push through the finish line with a flourish. Cole has come home. The concept and a deft one — is the prodigal son returning. Making his way back to what’s important, to what’s at his core ….
Named after the address of his childhood home in North Carolina, J. Cole's third studio effort was released with no supporting singles, and there are no featured artists, either, because 2014 Forest Hills Drive is one of those personal, conceptual, and "heavy" albums. Most importantly, it's admirable bordering on excellent, sure to inspire returning fans to herald it as a classic even if it doesn't woo the skeptical, casually wandering out of its intro with two smooth and soulful numbers that are so free, they're just shy of being clumsy.
J. Cole is a student of hip-hop, the kind who moves to New York to stalk Jay-Z for an opportunity to rap for him, peppers his lyrics with nods to the greats, and pens an apology to Nas when his biggest single comes across as too poppy. Cole is aware of the structure and pace of good rap albums and anxious to apply them to his own music. For his third record, 2014 Forest Hills Drive, he channels the nostalgic self-mythology of Jay-Z’s Black Album.
North Carolina rapper J. Cole visited Ferguson, Missouri, to demand justice for Michael Brown and protested in New York for Eric Garner – but none of that political fire burns on his third album. Cole still can't separate his interest in world issues from what's in his pants: He speaks some incisive truths about class, race ("Fire Squad") and relationships ("Wet Dreamz"), but those insights are too often undercut by crass humor.
Head here to submit your own review of this album. J. Cole is a funny old guy. In the States he is tagged as being a singles guy who can't put together an album, and in the UK his singles rarely make a dent while his albums grab all the attention. However, both sides of the pond tend to agree he ….
Jermaine Cole topped the US charts with his first two albums. On his third, the North Carolina rapper is wondering if success is all it’s cracked up to be – “Think being broke was better,” he muses on Love Yourz. Cole is an entertaining braggart and his reflections on growing up in a tough place are compelling, but when he attempts to downplay his recent fortunes it comes across as disingenuous.
If the Truly Yours mixtapes are any indication, J. Cole is at his best when he’s not trying to be the best. On those EPs, there was no falling back on ‘90s nostalgia by jumping on famous samples (“Villuminati” and “LAnd of the Snakes”) or paying tribute to the greats (“Let Nas Down”). Instead, it was just good raps over good beats.
2014 Forest Hills Drive, J. Cole has finally shored up those tiny but aggravating cracks, and crafted both his most compelling and consistent studio album to date. He boldly refrains from overarching radio bids and features. As Kendrick Lamar proved with good kid, m.A.A.d. City, sometimes the most ….
In an age of vicarious experience, when nearly anything can be consumed via someone else's tweets, J. Cole believes in the value of physical proximity. The rapper was one of the few boldface names to appear at the protests that broke out over the summer in Ferguson, Mo., after a police officer killed an unarmed black 18-year-old. He turned up again last week in New York City, where he was photographed taking part in a demonstration against a grand jury's decision not to indict a police officer in the choking death of Eric Garner.
This year, J. Cole bought his first house: the split-level Fayetteville, North Carolina, home he grew up in. Address: 2014 Forest Hills Drive - also the name of his featureless, self-produced third studio album. Accordingly, the record eschews general-experience anthems for specific coming-of-age stories.
Several listens into J. Cole’s new album – 2014 Forest Hills Drive – and one thing is clear: Cole is the everyman rapper, the inoffensive counterpart to Kanye’s frightening, mechanical experimentalism, the stiff upper lip to Drake’s bleeding heart romanticism, the passive observer to Kendrick Lamar’s social commentator: forever earnest in his attempts to make a point, but forever falling slightly short of the mark when faced with the challenge of standing out from his contemporaries: not quite reaching the heights of those producing albums deemed ‘classic’, yet not in such dire straits as to be lumped in with the greying mass that makes up much mainstream hip hop. There was a time when it felt definition was indeed Cole’s ambition: his previous LP, 2013’s bold Born Sinner was riddled with tracks that suggested an untapped reserve of lyrical deftness and a canny ear for a great beat: it was one of the strongest rap albums of the year (and lest we forget, 2013 was the year that brought us game-changers like Yeezus and Nothing Was the Same) and spoke of growth and promise that left his fans awaiting new work with baited breath.
Someone get rapper J. Cole an editor. On his disappointing third record, which he co-produced, Cole, like a lot of young, ambitious artists, seems to believe every idea in his head is worth documenting. He’s undeniably an intelligent MC with a sense of social justice, which makes all the half-realized ideas, indulgence, and misogyny (clueless “No Role Modelz”) puzzling.