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My First Time: J. Cole’s Entire Discography

As a resident of North Carolina, it only made sense J. Cole was the next discography I listened to.

Per the usual disclaimer, I am not sure this is J. Cole’s entire discography; these are simply albums that were available on Spotify. Somewhere in there, I accidentally listened to a Dreamville album.

Cole World: The Sideline Story

“Intro” is just piano, and I absolutely love it. I am a lover of piano in hip hop/rap, so it definitely grabbed my attention. I love the way it continued into “Dollar And A Dream 3,” which is another song I found myself loving. Both songs were perfect for introducing who J. Cole is.

The verses in “Sideline Story”… *chef’s kiss*. Even on songs that are more high production like “Cole World,” which I wasn’t the biggest fan of, he still showcases his lyrical geniusness. For example, “At times I watch the news and see they talkin’ ’bout diplomacy // And they ain’t got a clue my n****s ain’t got they diplomas, see”.

Missy Elliott’s feature on “Nobody’s Perfect” is definitely the best feature on the album.

Overall, J. Cole sounds so adorable. Compared to now, his voice sounds pre-puberty. If I had to be picky, I would switch “Breakdown” and “Work Out” so the album ended with a piano-heavy track and brought the whole project full circle.

Born Sinner (Deluxe Version)

“I’m a born sinner // But I die better than that, I swear”. I LOVE that these were the first lyrics of the album; it immediately explains the title, which had me a little nervous (tbh). This album is about all the sin in the world and really speaks about his faith, which I wasn’t expecting. At least, that’s my interpretation of the album. For example, “Mo Money – Interlude” speaks to greed, which is one of the seven deadly sins.

I don’t know why it took listening to this album to register “Power Trip” is a song I knew before doing this project, and I didn’t know it was by J. Cole… nor that it featured Miguel.

Furthermore, the beginning of “She Knows” is used in different memes and short-form content, and I’m just now realizing it…

If I had to pick a least favorite track, it would be “New York Times” ft. 50 Cent & Bas. It’s so close to being great, but there’s something missing that I can’t quite put my finger on. With the exception of the last four songs, this is an album I could listen to on repeat.

Favorite track: “Let Nas Down” (wow wow and wow).
Stand out lyric from the song: “The difference between the pretenders and the Kendrick Lamars”

2014 Forest Hills Drive

I decided to not do the live from Fayetteville version, since it would probably be the same songs; however, it is available on Spotify if you’re interested.

For the album, I think it was simply genius to have it released in 2014. Out of the three albums I’ve heard up to this point, this one is the most vibey. Because the entire thing was cohesive and flowed seamlessly, I can’t think of a stand out track. Yep, not even “No Role Modelz”.

The consistent use of the piano was fantastic. He started and ended this album with the piano being a prominent instrument.

Favorite track: “Note to Self” All the thank yous touched my heart. It’s honestly a track I could listen to a couple of times in a row. His joy and love and gratitude and appreciation come through so beautifully.

4 Your Eyez Only

This had a very different start compared to the previous albums.

The album had a distinct J. Cole sound, but something still felt very different about it, especially with “Deja Vu”. This is an album that got better and grabbed my attention as it progressed.

I need a man to play “Foldin Clothes” to me; when that happens, it’ll be game over. Showing devotion and helping out and being supportive?!?! Where are these men at?! I literally need my future husband to dance to this song at our wedding. Speaking of that mystery man, “Change” is a song I would totally play for my future husband mid-argument.

“She’s Mine Pt. 2” felt like the rap version of a ballad, and I love it. It’s literally made my On Repeat playlist on Spotify because I could not stop listening to it after I finished this project.

I love, love, love that this album is for his daughter, but it also feels like it’s for his significant other. Again, this is just my interpretation of it. I don’t even know if he has a daughter.

KOD

I love the melody on the title track “KOD”. It’s a head-nodding melody and has a catchy bridge (still don’t know my musical terminology so zero confidence I used “bridge” correctly).

This album is very cohesive; compared to the others, it beautifully flows the best. If you don’t pay attention, you’ll miss something. It’s also very vibey and chill; I don’t really know how to explain it. There’s nothing intense or aggressive about the album or any of its tracks.

“Once an Addict – Interlude” called me out, especially the part about looking forward to college to escape problems and realizing there is no escape. I wasn’t ready for this song to bring me to tears the way it did. If I ever want to feel attacked, I have this song on standby.

The Off-Season

This is the only album I’ve fully heard before deciding to listen to his entire discography, and I wanted to give it another listen for the sake of continuity.

“9 5 . s o u t h” was an interesting choice to start this album, compared to how other albums started. Honestly, I was not a fan of the MC voice, whoever he was.

“l e t . g o . m y . h a n d” ft. Bas & 6LACK is so beautiful and feels like his older albums. Now that I’ve listened to his older albums, the direction he took this one in kind of shocked me; maybe that’s why it’s called The Off-Season? I thought this album was the best thing since sliced bread when it initially came out, but that opinion has definitely changed.

Favorite track: “h u n g e r . o n . h i l l s i d e” ft. Bas. It will forever be the best track from this album.


My favorite thing about J. Cole is he makes beautiful music without a lot of instrumentation and big production.

I’m happy I’m not making myself rank these because there is simply no way. If I had to pick a favorite J. Cole album now that I’ve completed this project, it would be between Born Sinner (Deluxe Version) and 4 Your Eyez Only.

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