Iconic, different, dark, insightful, these are words that come to mind when I listen to J. Cole’s 4th and newest album 4 Your Eyez Only. The album is a Dreamville release and long awaited from many Cole fans. The instrumentals aren’t necessarily hard hitting or banging but the words definitely sting especially on songs like Ville Mentality, Neighbors, Deja Vu, and the title track 4 Your Eyez Only. The perspective of this album though, is what has so many hip hop heads so intrigued.
The instrumentals on this album are rather mellow and jazzy with blues influence. Cole pulls in strings when necessary and definitely knows how to flow over them perfectly. Cole has no problem dropping lyrics in the pockets of songs like Foldin Clothes. The music seems to flow seamlessly from song to song on this project. This project just sounds like a winter album, something you can really vibe out to when it’s cold outside. In the documentary Eyez, Cole was shown being heavily involved in the album’s composition, and it is evident in the way the album flows together.
Cole gave the world about a week’s notice until his newest project. He released 2 tracks before hand that did not make the album. Everybody gotta die and False Prophets where he seems to take shots at several rappers like Wale, Kanye, and to quote Cole himself “Lil whatever” whom some speculate to be Lil Yachty or Lil Uzi Vert. In those songs Cole also prepares the world for his newest music by saying he makes music for him and he doesn’t care if the world fucks with it or not.
Upon first listening to 4 Your Eyez Only the story was clear. It’s a life story of someone who was down but was experiencing life, love and the birth of his child. It’s a story of adversity and overcoming demons on the inside like on the song Change and the outside like in Neighbors. However, when listening to the title track it becomes apparent that the over arching story being told is not Cole’s but rather one of his friends. Either their lives seemed to follow some sort of parallel or Cole steps in and out of the story to give soliloquies.
Whereas we’ve seen this sort of cohesive storytelling from recent artists like Kendrick Lamar on Good Kid Maad City and Logic’s The Incredible True Story, this is the first project from Cole that tells a story in a similar fashion. We follow a young man all the way through his life. The title track even shares that Cole is telling his story after his death. The album ultimately is for the storyteller’s daughter and Cole is simply the messenger.
Cole has blessed the world with a great story full of ups, downs, and insight, and he has done it with no features. I would have liked the story to last a little longer, but what we have been given is amazing in itself. I like the direction the music has gone in. I like how the album relies on the words and not large instrumentals. Overall I give this album a solid 8/10.