J. Cole – Cole World: The Sideline Story [Review]

J. Cole has been hard at work trying to get off the sideline and into the mainstream eye. We got a glimpse of potential when he made The Come Up, he polished his sound with The Warm Up and finally he got ready for the big debut with Friday Night Lights. With every release, hype continued to build and the wait became unbearable until now….Cole World: The Sideline Story.

1. Intro
 Produced by J. Cole
We start off the album with an intro that reminds me of the intro on Friday Night Lights.

2. Dollar And A Dream III
 Produced by The University & J. Cole
If you’ve been following J. Cole for a while, then you’re no stranger to the “Dollar And A Dream” series. We start off right where we picked up the first time around as J. Cole begins the track with the first two bars he used on the last “Dollar And A Dream” track. The perfect harmony of the piano, flute and background strings sets the feel as if we are in a “dream sequence”. The beat is hard enough to bump in the whip and at the same time complex enough to dissect while listening to it in headphones. I was pleasantly surprised to hear the beat change 2/3 of the way through. The production is top notch.

Lyrically J. Cole comes correct to perfectly start the album. We have deep thoughts and plenty of emotion being thrown around as Jermaine gives you realness within the first couple lines not to mention one of my favorite verses in the album is the second verse here:

Cole, walk with a nigga, I give you my pain
So much on my mind, I wonder how it fit in my brain
Scattered thoughts, dark secrets lead me to a blacker heart
Life can’t get any worse, Stevie with his glasses off
Cause I still don’t see hope, lookin’ for a quick fix
When everyone I see is broke, get lost in weed smoke
Knowin’ it make it worse, thoughts roam uncontrollably

I take a step back and notice that things ain’t what they seem
That’s when a nigga refocus, yeah I turn on them high beams
I got that red dot waitin’, I’m wastin’ your whole regime
I wish a nigga would, boy you can’t out-smart me
I let you feel like you the shit, but boy you can’t out-fart me

Perfect way to start off a highly anticipated album

3. Can’t Get Enough
Featuring Trey Songz; Produced by Brian Kidd
With the somewhat flop of “Work Out” (Glad it’s just a bonus track) Jermaine solves his radio issues with a radio friendly track where he recruits Trey to do the hook and drive the song in the background. Although being very radio friendly, it’s far from compromising. Brian Kidd samples “Paulette” by Balla Et Ses Balladins to gives us the Latin/tropical feel. J. Cole has a hit on hands. Great track.

4. Lights Please
Produced by J. Cole
A familiar track to many of us, and I can’t hate J. Cole for putting this old track on the album, after all this is the track that got him signed to Roc Nation. We have a more refined/cleaned up instrumental this time around with the same great lyrics and subject matter intact. If you didn’t catch the subject matter, as V-G explained it during The Warm Up review (“Here he discusses how his intellect is pushed aside for sex”). It’s even possible that Jermaine is talking about Hip-Hop itself in similar fashion to what Common said years ago. Great track then and great track now.

5. Interlude
Here we get the story of J. Cole getting a text about being signed and next thing you know being pulled over and spending the easiest night in jail.

6. Sideline Story
Produced by J. Cole
Cole gives the hardships of getting to where he is now, off the sidelines. The piano in the beat gives it the smooth feel along with Cole’s hook. In the last verse he goes into being signed by the Roc, briefly mention people asking him why Jay-Z never gave him the proper push. Even cleverly comparing two greats of two different generations and hitting home with it.

But, you’ll never play me like LeBron vs. Jordan
Twenty years, wonder who they gone say was more important
Both changed the game, came through and made a lane
Who’s to say that who’s greater, all we know, they ain’t the same

Decent track, however I just expected more.

7. Mr. Nice Watch
Featuring Jay-Z; Produced by J. Cole
The ode to the Jay-Z line that can be found on Jay-Z’s “Intro” on Vol. 1. If you’ve been following the album this track seems kind of out of place, its not a bad song but doesn’t seem to fit the album (Blame the Jigga man). The beat introduces the “sonic feel” to the album which doesn’t belong on this album. Course lyrically we are down a bit however this is more than acceptable for another radio-ready track, which explains why Jay-Z decided to add a verse to this track instead of “God’s Gift” (More later).

8. Cole World
Produced by J. Cole
This is my shit right here, a fast tempo track with a somewhat bouncy feel with a very infectious hook. Cole has given us a pretty balanced album so far by not just giving us all deep material, but in this case also some material we can listen to in the whip and bump.

9. In The Morning
Featuring Drake; Produced by L&X Music
Another familiar track on the album, course the original version only had Cole. I remember an interview where Cole explained that he didn’t feel the song got the correct push which explains why he added the Drake verse and put it to Friday Night Lights. Seems like he had the same problem with FNL and wanted to give it the proper push by putting it on the album, and you can’t blame him as this is probably the new certified sex anthem.

J. Cole turns in two great verses however as DuB pointed out the first time, Drake seems to just be more at home with the beat. The tone is set with the repeating piano tune as what sounds like a wood pipe complements the melody.

Nine tracks in and we still continue to have a balanced album, deep thoughts, something to bump and a couple tracks for the ladies.

10. Lost Ones
Produced by J. Cole
This has to be one of the realest songs on the album, once again we find Cole doing his thing production wise with strings in the background to set the mood along with drums driving the beat with the piano present during the hook. The hook shows a vulnerable person and Cole captures the emotion perfectly for this track.

Verse one takes what would probably actually be the dialog from a guy that just finds out from his girlfriend that she’s pregnant, while verse two gives us the view from the girl. This is some deep and real shit, check it out. One of my favorite cuts on the album.

11. Nobody’s Perfect
Featuring Missy Elliott; Produced by J. Cole
When I first heard of this collaboration I was kind of disappointed and thought it would be an instant skip. How wrong I was. We get another smooth beat with what sounds like a guitar loop. Cole’s flow is very laid back and we have some more bars worth highlighting

Analyzin’ the world, fantasizin’ about girls
I’m handin’ diamonds and pearls and vandalizin’ her curls
Sweating her weave out, moans as she breathes out
Fuck I’m doin’ in parties with Hova and Steve Stoute
I step over pirhannas, death over dishonor
They killin niggas for J’s, that’s death over designer

The Missy Elliott hook is perfect for the song, it does change the pace up and gives Cole a break from hook duties.

12. Never Told
 Produced by No I.D.
No I.D. on the track, we continue to follow the smooth tracks as Cole tells a story of a man’s cheating and the aftermath that will most likely follow, not as emotional as “Lost Ones” or “Nobody’s Perfect”. Jermaine’s flow is even more relaxed as he gives us greater pauses between bars. Cole asks the million dollar question that got me even wondering of why we cheat:

Is it cause we rap? Heavens no, lotta niggas rap though, never blow
Like heterosexuals, girl you fine, from head to toe
Could it be cause my father let me know that he cheated and somehow
I never told, I never told

13. Rise And Shine
Produced by J. Cole
After all these thought provoking songs, we purposely get an upbeat track to as the title says “Rise And Shine”. As Cole starts the track he plays a sound clip from a Jay-Z interview where he talks about an unknown rapper out there who he is going to sign. As we all know Jigga found him. After the clip ends we have horns on full blast along with the sample actually playing. This is by far one of my top two favorite productions on the whole album where Cole shows off plenty that he has learned from No. I.D.. The sample although great doesn’t play throughout the song as to not overshadow the drums which are a standout on the track. This is another track that you can play in the whip and I suggest you do so. BANGER!

14. God’s Gift
Produced by J. Cole
This is the track Jay-Z passed up. What’s messed up is that Hov didn’t even give Jermaine notice or else Cole would have gotten Nas for this track, and the sad part is I now know why he wanted either of them for this track. The hook itself seems like it was purposely meant for Jay-Z, being that Jay-Z was Cole’s “God’s Gift”.

Cole is shining with his production throughout the album. Those No I.D. tips sure did pay off, and this was evident back during FNL. Great track, check it out because me explaining it does it no justice.

15. Breakdown
Produced by J. Cole
Cole gets very personal with this final track of the album as he talks about his father who wasn’t really around and his mother being left alone to raise him. He even goes on to mention her crack addiction. A good song to end the album.

Bottom Line:
This is by far one of the top 3 albums that has been released in 2011. All the mixtapes and hype leading up to this album pointed to signs of it being an instant classic. The album is beyond great but however it is by no means a classic right now. “Mr. Nice Watch” and “Sideline Story” tend to weight the album down and you have to question Cole’s decision (or even Hov’s) to let songs like “Before I’m Gone”, “2Face”, and “Farewell” be on Friday Night Lights instead of the actual album. It would be a no brainer if we switched those 3 songs in for 3 of the weaker songs on the album this album would be an instant classic. However as I mentioned to B-Easy in a previous conversation (Shout outs to B & Jerm for letting me do the Cole review), this could possibly be along the lines of the Slim Shady LP, College Drop Out and even It Was Written where they weren’t classics when they were released, but years later due to their high creativity, appreciation later and overall contribution to Hip-Hop that they were deemed classics. Only time will tell. Until then this was a great well rounded album debut without the thousands of features, EXCELLENT production (The next Kanye?) and plenty of subject matter. Go support Real Hip-Hop and PURCHASE THE ALBUM!!

In all honesty this is by far the hardest album to rate, I didn’t want to be stuck in the moment like I was with Royce’s album (Giving it a 4 when now I see it as a 3.5) so over the past week I’ve thought about this rating constantly and have decided. Bring on the second opinions!