Review : J. Cole - Friday Night Lights
PitchforkIt should've been J. Cole's big night: the long-awaited release of the Jay-Z protégé's Friday Night Lights mixtape on November 12. Instead, the spotlight fell to another Jay: Jay Electronica, who joined Cole on Jay-Z's Roc Nation imprint that night, being introduced by Hova himself at a media-heavy Manhattan gathering, in front of a bunch of writers who would've otherwise been home downloading Cole's mixtape. "This 'posed to be a moment," Cole yells on the tape's intro, as if protesting preemptively.
Beyond their first initial, Cole and Electronica have a lot in common. They're both Southerners who specialize in conscientious, Nas-Style New York rap, and devote their grainy drawls to complex rhyme patterns and even more complex introspection. But Jay Elec is an effortless enigma, a guy who can (and will) rattle off absolute nonsense and make it sound like the deepest thing you ever heard. Cole, in contrast, is the honor student who overthinks everything: Each boast or proposition comes with some sort of tortured justification. It's not enough for him to enjoy the spoils of his success; he has to spell out to us that he's doing it for everyone else who grew up poor in Fayetteville, North Carolina. He's a striver, and he sounds like one.
Friday Night Lights is almost entirely a self-produced affair, and it's to Cole's credit that he knows what makes him sound good, even if he does lean too hard on the tinkly piano sound he loves. On the great summer single "Who Dat", Cole came off tense and purposeful, as if he were trying to elbow his way onto radio playlists through sheer force of will. Friday Night Lights finds him in a more expansive mode, getting into the minutiae of his own personal story over exclusively midtempo beats. At its best, the tape has an organic warmth that lends it an immediate approachability. At its worst-- the inevitable dragging moments that come with any hour-plus mix focusing mostly on one voice-- that organic pose fades into an all-surface gleam that doesn't really suit Cole at all. When he raps over the rippling lilt of Erykah Badu's "Didn't Cha Know", it's perfect. When he raps over Missy Elliott and Aaliyah's gorgeously still "Best Friends", it isn't. But Cole is, in the grand scheme, new to this, and there's a good chance he'll figure this stuff out.
Like the TV show that shares its name, Friday Night Lights is an affecting tale of small-town people trying to figure out their paths in life. Cole, who left Fayetteville for college in New York City, explores bits of his own story that little rap music has found space to address-- like being the one college kid who made it out, then returning home to realize that many of his old friends are in prison or Iraq. Or digging into the fluidity of class, and the weird effects it can have on a kid's psyche: "Me, I lived it all, from dirt poor in a trailer/ Worried about my mother and never trusting my neighbors/ To middle class with a backyard and my own room/ To being the only black kid in my homeroom." In one painfully vivid moment, he finds himself jealous of the white kids whose parents sent them to school with Lunchables. In another, he wonders whether college was really the best way out: "One year cost 'bout the same as a Mercedes/ Four years cost wife, crib, and a baby."...full text
TheblackboxofficeJ. Cole is the North Carolina native whose lyrical dexterity recalls the golden era of hip hop. Not content with only being a rapper, he produces most of his music himself. On his latest mixtape, Cole turns in a superior collection of thought provoking rhymes over original and borrowed beats.
What makes ‘Friday Night Lights’ a must have is the story telling. Every feature describes life with vivid wordplay. “Villematic” allows J. Cole to unload life lessons over Kanye West’s “Devil In A New Dress”. He, also, addresses the people who wrote him off before they heard his music. He raps, ” Ya’ll hate it before ya’ll play it. I already forgave ya.”
Although, J. Cole showcases his intelligence through is rapping, he’s not immune to drama encountered in life. ‘Friday Night Lights’ touches on everything– the remorse a man feels after hitting and quitting a woman to being a new artist who’s being compared to the rap greats. J. Cole has a confident and comfortable flow, which makes each song stand out....full text
SoulcultureFrom his inception in 2007 to this point today, J Cole now undeniably stands as one of the lynchpins in the superstar team known as Roc Nation, with two dope mixtapes, a XXL co-sign, tutorship from a rap legend, murderous guest spots and an album which promises to awaken rap from the clutches of watered down diet Hip Hop.
Friday Night Lights could very well be the last free promotional campaign to turn any remaining doubters into fully fledged supporters as this mixtape once again invites us to Cole’s world.
Cole’s frusrated tones filter into the first of two intros a minute into the track, proclaiming how this ‘moment’ is his to make the most of. A slick production then follows as ‘Too Deep For The Intro’ channels the smooth merits of the late B.I.G’s ‘The World Is Filled’. Cole’s biographic verses delve exceptionally into issues such as school days, dealings with women and his impending explosion.
Much like The Warm Up [Cole’s previous mixtape] Friday Night Lights offers a soulful rap package, spiritual production credits and rough, unpolished rhymes from Cole. ‘Before I’m Gone’ is powered by emotionally battered lines from Cole whilst ‘You Got It’ flips Janelle Monae’s ‘Neon Valley Street’ into a cool dedication to a beauty.
Much like Kanye West, J Cole’s rapping skills are very much amplified due to his producer merits as each Cole assisted instrumental works in sync with the Carolina native’s flow. He even dons a Kanye instrumental on ‘Vilematic’ with ‘Devil In A New Dress’ as the backing to a verse which gives Ye’s original a good run for its money. Adding to the Kanye-affiliated theme, bonus track ‘Looking For Trouble’ features Yeezy, Big Sean, Cyhi The Prince and Pusha T. Although G.O.O.D Music’s roster make up the numbers, J. Cole holds his own with a killer verse, racking up a win for team Roc Nation....full text
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