J. Cole’s fifth album, “KOD,” is a soothing and layered 42 minutes of passionate wordplay.
The album, released on Friday, April 20, set an Apple Music streaming record with 64.5 million streams in its first 24 hours. The number is surprising because Cole didn’t announce the release of his album until four days prior. The release date for the album also corresponds to the date 4/20 because those who smoke weed “celebrate” on this day.
All 12 tracks hint at or directly address drugs; however, if you look at the album cover it states, “This album is no way intended to glorify addiction.” The cover also features a drawing of “King Cole” and children on different drugs. It’s up to the listener to decide if they will take J. Cole’s advice and think a lot about negatively-impacting decisions before they’re made.
It’s been a little over a year since Cole dropped “4 Your Eyez Only,” a personal album about the death of his friend, James McMillan Jr. “KOD” isn’t as personal as his last effort, but instead brings up issues and messages that implement his goal of triggering millennials to make a change.
“KOD” doesn’t have one meaning but three, according to a tweet from J. Cole. The three meanings are Kids on Drugs, King Overdosed and Kill Our Demons. The meanings can be shown in all of the tracks, but they serve more as themes rather than definitions. Cole wants his fans to interpret the album however they want, which makes it difficult to find one specific meaning behind Cole’s rhymes.
The top songs that represent this are “Intro,” “The Cut Off” and “Once an Addict.” In “Intro,” a woman warns the listener, “There are many ways to deal with this pain. Choose wisely.” It also is very relaxed and does not have any of J. Cole’s passionate rhymes yet. “The Cut Off” featuring KiLL Edward, talks about who will stand by you through addiction. KiLL Edward is not an actual artist but is an edited version of J. Cole’s voice. The “artist” was released on SoundCloud and is supposed to represent Cole’s alter ego.
“Once an Addict,” explores J. Cole’s perspective with dealing with his mother and addiction. The song deals with vivid memories in Cole’s life which makes the rhymes so powerful and passionate. It truly captures what it’s like to watch someone with an addiction, influencing the audience to think thoroughly before they act.
Another factor J. Cole wants the audience to think about is politics today and how our society is changing. A popular track titled “Photograph,” speaks about the obsession with social media. Specifically, he raps about how he “fell in love with the photograph,” meaning how people obsess over pictures but don’t know what to say when it comes to actually having a conversation.
The track, “BRACKETS,” investigates Cole’s thoughts about how his tax dollars are not being used by the government to help build his community in a noticeable way.
On the last track, J. Cole closes the album out with “1985 (Intro to ‘The Fall Off’)” where he talks only about modern day issues. Some of these include how white people expect rappers to act because of their skin tone, judgments about J. Cole when he first started music and how rap has changed. He also has been noted by listeners as taking shots at SoundCloud rappers such as Lil Pump, who he’s had problems with for a while. Cole proposes this theory by rapping, “I heard one of em diss me, I’m surprised I ain’t trippin, listen good to my reply. Come here lil man, let me talk with ya. See if I can paint for you the larger picture.” This closing was effective as a potential transition into Cole’s next album in that it strayed away from the deep, anecdotal vibe you get from the album and contained some of the lyricism that highlighted his previous album, “2014 Forest Hills Drive.”
Compared to “2014 Forest Hills Drive,” “Born Sinner” and “Sideline Story,” “KOD” is an album with a chill vibe spread throughout the album rather than hit songs to bop to. This is extremely appreciated because the music is meant to make the listener think and reflect about the influence of peer pressure in decision-making. “KOD” makes us think and influences us to make positive decisions — exactly why some fans of J. Cole listen to his rhymes.