4 Your Eyez Only
Randall Frank Slocum
A popular theory is circulating regarding the content of J Cole’s fourth studio album. BET reports a fan dissection that the album is a concept album that follows the parallel stories of two young girls. One is the daughter of Cole. The other follows the daughter of a childhood friend who by luck of the draw loses her father to the violence of the streets. The back cover of the CD version is also a poignant picture of a young African American girl. Which girl is she? This much is up to interpretation, but the narrative fits.
The real relief is Cole returns with new music. On DJ Khaled’s last album he suggested he was considering retirement.
Yet, he’s back and flowing as smoothly as ever. Cole is one of the most adept lyricists working today. The ferocity and cadence of his delivery is at once soothing and aggressive. He’s got serious shit to say, but doesn’t find the need to scream about it. It is sufficient to let the words speak. To let the ideas carry the day.
Like he raps on “Foldin Clothes”, “I wanna fold clothes for ya, /I wanna make you feel good. / I wanna do the right thing. / It’s so much better than the wrong thing. “
It’s a love song to making his little girl’s life easier thru the simple things. Repaying debts. Honoring your loved ones. Doing the laundry.
On “Change”, Cole laments growing up in a violent environment.
“ I call it poison /you call it real” he decries.
“ He was 22,” he says as “ Change” winds down.
Voices can be heard as if gossiping on the streets.
“This has got to end. The violence. “
This, of course, is an all too familiar refrain of thoughtful hip-hop music. I for one have gratitude such a capable and provocative storyteller is willing to take on subjects that get glossed over by the news media. Do we know that inner city violence in Chicago and LA are as serious as ever? Yes. But unfortunately most of us learn the true stories and experiences of those living their lives in these situations from artists like Cole, Kendrick, the Roots, all of whom keeping with a social awareness tradition in hip hop going back to N.W.A., Public Enemy and The Geto Boys serve as our eyes and ears on the streets.
For you J Cole, we can all drop the tough guy shit. And we’re listening.