Release Date: Apr 20, 2018
Record label: Interscope
We all know the 'Parental Advisory: Explicit Content' warning that graces the front of certain albums - an especially iconic badge of honour in hip-hop - but J. Cole has a far more precise disclaimer for his listeners on the cover of his latest record: "This album is in no way intended to glorify addiction." 'KOD' - the North Carolina rapper's fifth studio album - tackles drugs, demons and addiction for the majority of its 12 tracks, with Cole seemingly keen to caution his fans, rap peers and society at large about this delicate and pertinent set of topics. He's already delivered three separate definitions for its acronymic title - Kids on Drugs, King Overdosed, Kill Our Demons - leaving us in no doubt about this project's focus.
To download, click "Share" and right-click the download icon | iTunes | Google Play | Stitcher | RSS The Lowdown: KOD dropped in a cloud of purple smoke on April 20th. The date was no accident, 4-20 being the time, day, and universal code for marijuana. But anyone expecting to light up and float away should be ready for a sour aftertaste. KOD is an album-length examination of addictive behavior, full of songs that start by celebrating a certain lifestyle and end with hurt, pity, and broken dreams.
It's ironic that social media jerks tease Jermaine Cole with "J. Cole went platinum with no features." Once seen as an understudy to generational talents like Kendrick Lamar and Drake, the North Carolina musician didn't reach artistic fruition until 2014 Forest Hills Drive, when he abandoned the typical cameo-heavy big-budget formula for an idiosyncratic, self-produced organic sound that plumbed his neuroses and uncertain beliefs. His subsequent work – 2016's richly soulful 4 Your Eyez Only and, now, the fractious, accusatory K.O.D.
Listening to a J. Cole album can feel like listening to a very intense young lawyer attempt to win a difficult case. Throughout his career, Cole's raps have often been self-serious and polemical, with their success depending on the overall strength of his argumentation above all else. And while many of his individual claims can be convincing, you often get to the end of a song and think something like: Wait, did he really just argue that corporations take taxes and use them to buy and spread guns? Few artists stake so much on their ability to persuade an audience of their worldview, particularly when that worldview is so absolutist.
Rating: NNNN J. Cole's fifth studio album is in no way intended to glorify addiction, but it is totally concerned with it. Cole has divulged that the title's acronym stands for three different things: Kids On Drugs, King Overdosed and Kill Our Demons. Largely shedding the ballad-focused approach of 2016's 4 Your Eyes Only, the 12 tracks are a high-octane ride through the ups and downs of addiction, told from various perspectives.
From a young age, most of us are bombarded with Miss Othmar -styled messages cautioning us away from the Bad Things: drugs (D.A.R.E.), sex (run-of-the-mill sex education), the streets (G.R.E.A.T.). It seemed like sensible advice, but it was overly simplistic. Catchphrases can’t prepare anyone for the reality of how and why those pathways begin to seem like viable options; topics like generational trauma and poverty weren’t part of the lesson plans.