Endorsements made in sidewalk chalk aren’t the kind of campus advertising I normally buy into, but after passing graffiti promotions for J Cole’s “Cole World” on the sides of Woodard Campus Center, Simpson Library, and Goolrick Fitness Center on a daily basis for weeks, I finally caved and gave the album a curious listen.
To be honest, I wasn’t expecting much, given that this is J Cole’s first full album as a new member of Jay-Z’s Roc Nation label. Luckily for both me and Cole’s anonymous on-campus supporters, “Cole World:The Sideline Story” does an admirable job backing up all of the hype surrounding it, and doesn’t fall into the same category as this year’s more disappointing releases like Jay-Z and Kanye West’s “Watch the Throne.”
“Cole World” is highlighted by its unexpected and unconventional production, most of which by Cole himself. For example, the first song, “Dollar and a Dream III,” features Cole rapping over an orchestral sampling taken from the soundtrack to the video game “Kingdom Hearts II,” while “Can’t Get Enough” utilizes a sample from the song “Paulette” by African Guinea band Balla et ses Balladins.
The album also includes an impressive handful of guest rappers, from rap veterans like Missy Elliott and Jay-Z, to newer artists like Trey Songz. However, the album really shines on solo tracks like “Sideline Story” and “Lights Please,” where Cole describes his climb to the top and contemplates the significance of his own newfound fame.
Debuting at number one on the U.S. charts, “Cole World” breaks the stereotype of what a newcomer’s album is supposed to sound like by combining the original, underground production qualities of an indie rapper with the recognizable and comfortable flow, lyrics, and command of a much more experienced artist.
Characteristics such as these make it hard not to wonder just what kind of rapper J Cole will grow into.