By Ryan Croke
J. Cole dropped his highly anticipated album The Off-Season on Friday, May 14, and fans were extremely excited for Cole’s first album since 2018. I will give you my thoughts on the new project, and determine whether it lived up to expectations.
Cole is a very popular rapper with a very large fanbase, and he gained popularity through his lyrical ability. I have never been much of a J. Cole fan, and I wasn’t expecting much out of this album. His 2018 album KOD was a good project, but left much to be desired, and suffered from the same problem almost all Cole albums have: a lack of entertaining production. While lyricism is great, the first thing that catches the attention of the listener is the beat, and if the beat is lackluster, many people will skip before they can even hear the lyrics The Off-Season completely erases this problem, as it features simple yet infectious beats that are easy to get sucked into. It’s entertaining, and not in one ear out the other like the production of previous albums. On top of that, the choruses on this album are masterful and do a good job tying each track together. While Cole himself isn’t as strong lyrically as he has been in the past, his delivery is great, and the lyrics are still impressive. The album has no songs that stand out as being mediocre when compared to others, something I haven’t seen in any other J. Cole album.
As far as individual tracks go, there are plenty of songs that make a case for being the best song to come out so far this year, with the early fan favorite m y . l i f e, featuring 21 Savage, being the standout song. The track features an insanely catchy chorus from Morray, who broke out last year as an up-and-coming artist, and all three of the rappers talk about the situations they grew up in and how their perseverance allowed them to succeed. It is a very strong track, and definitely my favorite song on the album. Other notable tracks include t h e . c l i m b . b a c k, a 5-minute epic released as part of Cole’s 2020 EP Lewis Street, l e t . g o . m y . h a n d, a song about the worries of being a father along with great features from Bas and 6LACK, and 100 . m i l ’, also featuring Bas, in which Cole claims he is still improving despite already achieving massive success. Every song features much more of a focus on production than a typical J. Cole song did up until this point, and if Cole keeps going down this direction, I am very excited for what he has in store for us in the future. Regardless, this album is far from perfect, as Cole’s lyricism isn’t nearly as it has been in the past, and the featured artists outshine J. Cole on almost all the tracks they are present on. Despite this, Cole has convinced me of his artistry to a degree with this album, and I do think pretty positively of it considering my opinions of other Cole albums. I highly recommend you give The Off-Season a listen if you haven’t done so already.
Favorite Tracks: m y . l i f e, t h e . c l i m b . b a c k, l e t . g o . m y . h a n d, 100 . m i l ’