As 2014 came to a close, J. Cole released his third studio album, “2014 Forest Hills Drive.” It’s titled after his childhood home in Fayetteville, North Carolina, which seems appropriate as much of the music deals with J. Cole going through various stages of his life.
The songs “Wet Dreamz,” “03’ Adolescence” and “A Tale of 2 Citiez” specifically outline J. Cole at various phases, detailing how he lost his virginity, his insecurities as an 18-year-old and his transition from a small town to a big city, respectively. The album gives a great look into J. Cole as a person.
“St. Tropez” is about how J. Cole was intimidated by fame and fortune and how he feared that such a lifestyle would damage him. Yet he provides a confident demeanor in “January 28th” and “G.O.M.D.” as he commends his lyrical prowess and talent.
In contrast, J. Cole regrets focusing on himself instead of his loved ones in “Apparently.” The songs “No Role Modelz” and “Hello” are filled with passion as well. In the former, J. Cole describes how he lacked role models growing up, and how he really desired a true father figure. The latter is a trip down memory lane as J. Cole reminisces about his feelings for a past love.
“Intro” and “Note to Self” act as definitive starts and ends to the album. However, the two standout songs are “Fire Squad” and “Love Yourz.” They both contain great beats and demonstrate the duality of the album and thus sum up the work perfectly.
J. Cole proclaims his versatility and skill as one of the great rappers in “Fire Squad,” while “Love Yourz” is all about the overarching message of the album, which is that love and happiness are what is truly valuable in life. While “2014 Forest Hills Drive” may have not garnered much attention in the weeks up to its release, this album serves as an example of J. Cole’s success on the music charts.
[A version of this story ran on page 9 on 1/22/2015 under the headline “A breakdown of J. Cole’s latest album: 2014 Forest Hills Drive"]