June 14, 2024

J. Cole 2014 Forest Hill Drive: Bop or Flop?

This is J Cole’s third studio album, Forest Hill Drive, released in 2014. Although he is not exactly the critics’ most beloved rapper out there – that would probably be some guy named Kendrick Lamar – Cole is one of the most famous and successful rappers in mainstream hip hop today. This is certainly considered his best album among most fans. I think the album is fantastic.

Let’s start with the album’s production. For the most part, it’s quite good. It’s not something too adventurous and unique, but there are a handful of fantastic samples and great beats on songs such as Fire Squad, January 28th, and No Role Modelz – which is the most overplayed song ever – but a good song. On the other hand, you also have a couple of messy tracks production-wise, or dull beats on certain songs like G.O.M.D.. 

The album itself is quite introspective on paper, with Cole diving into his past experiences, love, the music industry, certain lifestyles and self-care. It’s supposed to be some sort of a concept album about his journey and struggles in the music industry and rise to fame, but… it’s not really the case. If you compare it to an album like TPAB, which also contains some of the same subjects, it’s shallow and dull as hell. It’s also not as close to being as focused as a concept album should be. And it’s not like it’s not trying to be, it definitely tries despite the “vibey” sound of the record.

As a whole, J. Cole stays surface level when it comes to exploring these introspective themes. He never dives deep enough, never brings an actual thrilling perspective or a thought-provoking message to the table, and he is doing enough to be acceptable. That’s it. You can’t really compare him to other conscious rappers like Kendrick, Little Simz, JID, Denzel Curry and many others, which are way more cutting edge, clever, introspective and interesting.

I think what stood out to me the most was how popular the album got. Don’t get me wrong, it was a good, solid album, but it’s been talked about for the last 10 years. People say it’s what made J. Cole their GOAT. I can see why, but most of these people don’t expand their music taste enough, and I think it’s caused them to listen to repeat songs/Albums.

Overall, 2014 Forest Hills Drive is a good album from J. Cole. It has some good vibes and fun tracks, but if you are looking for deep messages, intimate lyricism and inspiring music I would recommend an album called 24k Magic by bruno Mars instead. Overall, I would give this album a seven point eight out of ten.

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