J. Cole, a silhouette in solitude, simmering only swiftly in the public’s presence, passing platinum, then projecting back into privacy until the cycle continues. Though, note that Cole rarely takes solace in his public silence, if the figure he holds in the music world is voluminous, he holds a larger position within local communities which he, and his company Dreamville, lend a helping hand too. Cole is never still, and this reflects strongly in his 12 track fifth studio album, KOD.
KOD, a name that at further thought is unsurprising, Cole holds his album names as a bearer of subsequent meanings. KOD holds a strong theme that’s prevalent through this album, ‘Kids On Drugs’, ‘King Overdose’ and ‘Kill Our Dreams’, is the message that has been delivered to us on a platter in his release of this album title.
If the title doesn’t speak that, the cover art surely does. Saturated superfluously with shades of amber and purple, situated with striking shapes of, well, kids on drugs and Cole himself, his pupil-less eyes spun backwards beneath the crown he cradles. Just as an advisory, slipped between the saturation, a message which states, if listened to multiple times will become clear, this album doesn’t endorse addiction. With indication strung from the constant barrage bestowed before him by the lack of features found on his albums of late, Cole performed an ode to all who endorsed the effort for him to follow suit of nearly all who share his stage.
With the introduction of ‘kiLL edward’, Cole seemed to have followed the flood, however, the moment ‘kiLL edward’s’ notes string out, it’s nothing but obvious that Cole has, for lack of a better word, played us. The notion that albums strung up with 6 or 7 tracks with feature artists, not only dilutes the direction but distort the message which an artist looks to deliver, a concept which Cole holds true in engraving a distinguished narrative which has been instilled in KOD, and his previous work.
Throughout the early stages of KOD, it becomes clear he’s tinged the stylistic rhythms along the notion of trap-hop, a confusing notion upon first listen. The skip of his words juxtaposes just enough to create an uneasy experience if the slower performance on Neighbours from 4 Your Eyez Only or a similar tonal piece is what you’re after. I will be the first to admit the issues this trap stylisation unwittingly provokes initially, but add a drop of context and these tracks become a greater part of a finished piece which is desiring to be deconstructed by the listener.
On the track BRACKETS, there’s a welcome return to the mellowed but lyrically tight and emotionally enthralling ride that Cole is famed for. Unfortunately inspired by the institutional failings of the American tax system, Cole depicts his vision of democracy, demonstrating a tax system where funding is provided through an app on your phone. Though that fails to be the most poignant part on the track, Cole forebodes the toxic trickle of neglect which negotiates its way into the homes of many Americans, and how the nonchalance of its bearers proves the final straw on the back of beaten and broken households.
2 years on from 4 Your Eyez Only, Cole releases his attack on drug addiction, no coincidence that it breaks onto the scene on the eve of that proclaimed day, 4/20. An honest reflection on the direction of popular culture and the pendulum which swings towards the trap-hop wave, both which openly propagate drug usage, without feeling the consequence of the damage done to its recipients.
On the surface, the album has a similar sense which an uninformed person points purposely towards a piece of contemporary art and claims its unimportance, without the context discovered, KOD could be dismissed as disappointing. Instead, hold out, lean in a little closer, poke your finger through the trap-hop door, because this album holds a story worth hearing.