Posted by Stefan | Posted in Stefan's Archive | Posted on 14-02-2013
J. Cole and Miguel team up for the first official single off of Cole’s upcoming sophomore album Born Sinner, entitled “Power Trip”. Stream/Download the single below:
Leaks are common. But multiple (and I mean more than 3) versions of a song being leaked are uncommon. With Kanye West’s “All Of the Lights,” however, we were fortunate enough to see a nice progression or evolution of the track from when Kanye first played the instrumental for us over...
J. Cole and Miguel team up for the first official single off of Cole’s upcoming sophomore album Born Sinner, entitled “Power Trip”. Stream/Download the single below:
J. Cole and DJ Drama let loose this freestyle over Wu-Tang Clan’s “Itz Yours” instrumental. No word yet on a joint mixtape between the two, but Cole’s sophamore album Born Sinner, is set to release on January 28th.
Below is Cole’s extended version of Fabolous’ “Louis Vuitton” from The Soul Tape 2 mixtape.
Following a “trailer” that came out on Friday, J. Cole releases the first single off of his sophomore album entitled, “Miss America”. Cole’s upcoming album, Born Sinner is set to release on January 28th of next year. With a track like this setting the tone for the album, we can expect Cole’s signature sampling and high-end production on this new project.
Sandy’s bitchass kept us from posting the past couple days, but when I heard this last night I knew I had to post this track. ”The Jig Is Up (Dump’n)” is an unreleased track that came from one of the Kendrick-Cole studio sessions, and didn’t make it on the album. Canei Finch, producer of “Westside, Right On Time” co-produced the song alongside Cole.
According to Nielson SoundScan, K-Dot’s debut major label release, “good kid, m.A.A.d city”, which released October 22nd, scanned 241,000 copies, making it the highest selling album by a “new artist” in 2012. Congrats to Kendrick Lamar for this strong release, and support if you haven’t already!
After previewing a verse off of this track in-concert, Cole decided to let loose his latest self-produced single, “I’m A Fool”. Besides this being the first new Cole track a month or so, one of the verses is said to be subliminal jab at Diggy Simmons. *Yawns* As anti-climatic as that may be, this track bumps, and definitely leaves you anticipating more new material. #ColeWorld
Peep the live performance of “I’m A Fool” alongside Kendrick Lamar below.
*UPDATE: Apparently little Simmons took the verse to heart and “fired” back. Check it out here.
It’s Finally here. Preview videos for Big Sean’s latest mixtape, Detroit, have been circulating the web for the past couple weeks, but it is now here. With features like Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole, Mike Posner,
Chip Tha Ripper King Chip, Lex Luger, Young Chop, Hit-Boy, and many more this tape is filled with ill lyricism AND production. Check it out below:
Last week, Complex declared “Tupac back” as the best hip-hop line of 2011. Uh, okay. What was really back in 2011 was hip-hop. The genre has been suffering in recent years (or since the 90s, depending on how old you are), because of an overall lack of quality. Entering 2011, Golden Era snobs were raising their noses in disgust, the streets were wondering where 50 and Jeezy had gone, and everyone else was weary. In 2011, however, it seems like every rapper that mattered or wanted to matter stepped up and created exceptional music.
The established guard of stars came out this year in full force. Lil Wayne nearly sold a mili first week with his first post-prison release, Tha Carter IV. Eminem, still riding his monumental Recovery wave, teamed up with his old buddy Royce Da 5’9″ to unleash a collaboration album full of hard, misogynistic bars. Kanye West and Jay-Z promised and delivered the most anticipated tangible product in years in Watch The Throne, although the Concords 11s might have trumped The Throne in that department. (I say “tangible” lightly, since their initial digital-only release prevented a highly-anticipated leak). Each star did their thing, and expanded their horizons. Lil Wayne proved that you don’t need to make good music to sell records. Eminem was able to to make a fun record with a friend without any pressure. Kanye West continued to sonically expand what’s considered hip-hop while getting Jay to rap over some dubstep along the way. Expect DJs and electronic music to continue to infiltrate hip-hop in 2012.
While the old guard held their own, a new generation of rappers cracked into the mainstream. These rappers have been hot names for years, but 2011 was the year that they were able to get their label situation in line with their vision. Wale was given a second chance by Rick Ross’ Maybach Music Group and Warner Bros. He fell short of his “classic” ambition, but he produced a #1 record with plenty of feel-good bangers, pop hits and introspective moments to satisfy himself and his label.
Big Sean, the former black sleep of G.O.O.D Music, was finally deemed ready by Kanye. He went ahead seized the spotlight and the iPods of every house party in America. With T.I. back in jail, Meek Mill had nowhere to turn until a certain red-bottomed boss scooped him up. After providing the most belligerent, loud, boastful record in 2011 with “Ima Boss,” he dropped Dreamchasers and one of the most vivd storytelling verses of the year on “Tony Story.”
Remember Tity Boi? Yeah, me neither. But do you know who 2 Chainz is? Yeah, that’s Tity Boi. 2 Chainz reinvented himself in 2011 with a new moniker and heightened work ethic. His “Spend It” is currently the hottest street record, and he’s the go-to feature for trap rappers everywhere.
Out of all the rappers to finally breakthrough this year, J. Cole has perhaps made the biggest impact. Handpicked by Jay-Z to one day take the crown, J. Cole has had the entire industry behind him and against him at the same time. Everyone wanted to see J. Cole succeed, but nobody could agree on how to roll out his music properly. After over a year of touring and delays, his debut album, Cole Word, finally received it’s September release date. What it didn’t have was a hit single to carry the album up the charts. “Work Out” had been a summer flop, and “Can’t Get Enough” wasn’t being pushed enough. Despite label forecasts of 50,000-60,000 albums sold, Cole World quadrupled what the industry thought it was capable of, selling an astounding 218,000 copies its first week.
What J. Cole was able to do has now opened doors for the likes of Kendrick Lamar and Big K.R.I.T. All three have distinct sounds that are all favorable to the underground—conventional wisdom would have them pegged as Indie acts with no mainstream appeal, and therefore no selling power. But if J. Cole was able to debut with a #1 album just off the strength of his music and fans, who’s to say Kendrick and K.R.I.T can’t do the same? J. Cole has made it possible to be yourself in an industry that’s always looking to pawn rappers off for another hit single, and still sell enough to please the Israeli overlords. Kendrick and K.R.I.T released highly acclaimed projects of their own, and can now continue to build their fan base and brand instead of worrying about needing a crossover single to sell records.
J. Cole wasn’t the only Indie warrior in 2011. Mac Miller had the first independently released #1 album in over 15 years with Blue Slide Park, selling 155,000 copies first week. Tyler, The Creator’s Goblin has sold over 150,000 copies on an Indie label. J. Cole, Mac Miller and Tyler’s contrarian approaches all proved that a strong brand and loyal fan base trumps any rushed effort with a catchy single leading the way. What they accomplished will significantly impact how artists and labels roll out their product in the future.
Long delayed albums stuck in label purgatory also saw the light in 2011. Lupe Fiasco had to sell his soul to Atlantic Records, but he was able to get Lasers released (it ended up being his best album commercially, even with it’s shortcomings). Common finally got his act together, put his acting aside, got in the studio with No I.D after over a decade of separation, and recreated Resurrection for modern ears with The Dreamer, The Believer. Young Jeezy, through all of his promotional hiccups, managed to get TM103 out to your hood and my suburb right before the new year.
Despite all of the incredible music that was released in 2011, much of it has been overshadowed by conflict. What’s hip-hop without the beef, right? Nobody is dieting out here. 2011 was the year of the subliminals. Jay-Z told Birdman “you got Baby money,” which sparked a war of words that ran throughout the year. Drake took jabs at Kanye and Jay-Z on “I’m On One” (“the throne is for the taking—watch me take it”) and on “Dreams Money Can Buy” (“my favorite rappers either lost it or they ain’t alive”). Pusha T and Common dedicated entire records to dissing Drake (apparently they’ve noticed Drake’s commercial power). Aubs was involved in just about ever subliminal diss record in 2011 some way or another. That’s not a coincidence for the “human croissant.”
Credit to those who shed the subliminals and went right for the jugular. Lil Kim used Nicki Minaj’s success to try and resurrect her career, sparking a very public war of words. Game tried to get people to remember his existence by going at everyone connected to hip-hop on “Uncle Otis”—everyone except the label bosses who kept delaying his album. It was Lil Wayne, however, who provided the nastiest line of 2011, going right at Jay-Z and his pregnant Queen Beyonce: “Talkin’ bout Baby money, I got your Baby money. Kidnap your bitch, keep that, how much you love your lady money?”.
There was even R&B beef in 2011, which is always funny. Robin Thicke had the Twitter beef of the year, and Chris Brown and Frank Ocean even got into it. It’s only a matter of time until someone gets killed over Twitter, and Chris Brown’s cousins seemed determine to waste Frank Ocean over a couple tweets:
R&B and hip-hop became very intertwined in 2011. Frank Ocean’s Odd Future collective successfully fucked up the minds of half of teenage America with their I-don’t-give-a-fuck, shock, punk-rap rager attitude. Ocean ended up as the go-to hook-smith on Watch The Throne and on Goblin. His R&B counterpart, The Weeknd, exploded out of Toronto with some serious co-signs from Drake. The Weeknd promised and actually released three brilliant mixtapes in 2011, outproducing half of the R&B industry. His presence was felt all over Drake’s acclaimed Take Care—whether it was adding vocals, songwriting or production, The Weeknd helped Drake push Take Care to a creative zenith (similar to what Kid Cudi did on Kanye’s 808s & Heartbreak)—the ultimate example of hip-hop and R&B tastefully co-existing.
To close 2011, The Throne embarked on a North American tour. Those lucky enough to attend were treated to one of the greatest concerts ever put together. It was the ultimate concert experience—with tickets starting at almost $100 in many cities, it was a tour steeped in over-the-top stunts, stages, songs (they performed that song about African Americans In Paris 168 times over 34 concerts) and wardrobes (Kanye’s leather kilt and Air Yeezy 2s commanded attention at every date). Jay-Z’s bombastic, bat-out-of-hell performance of “U Don’t Know” was the most exhilarating concert experience I’ve ever had:
Hip-hop is in a strange place right now. Comedians are rapping, rappers are singing, singers are rapping, and Pitchfork keeps giving Lil B exceptional reviews. There’s no clear direction for the culture and the genre, because hip-hop flexed it’s diversity in 2011. Never has hip-hop literally had something for everyone. Hip-hop no longer has a myopic attitude—it’s artists are throwing a molotov cocktail to the establishment and creating music to expand the culture, to let everyone in. It’s much cooler to lead the revolution than to inherit the crown. Watch the new year.
“Moving weight.” It’s a term heavily used in the verses of coke rappers like Pusha T, Rick Ross and Young Jeezy. When it comes to moving weight in the form of CDs however, these rappers, along with much of the hip-hop industry, fail. The entire music industry is in uncharted, dangerous waters right now, and hip-hop has suffered. Aside from the Kanye Wests’, Eminems’ and Lil’ Waynes’ of the world, rappers aren’t moving enough weight.
A lack of hip-hop sales means less rappers are getting a chance to see their product in stores. Labels have to carefully pick and choose which artists will get financial and promotional backing for their albums. This has created a system of trial-by-fire for artists. They only get a push for their project if one of their singles pop. Usually, the album release process goes like this: hot single, followed by another solid single, and then the album. Labels only want to put their scarce resources behind what’s (hopefully) guaranteed to sell. By in large, they use the success of singles to judge that.
With that being said: How in the hell did J. Cole’s debut album sell 217,000 copies its first week of sales? (It’s the highest selling debut of 2011). The album had been delayed a year and a half, and he had been the subject of extremely harsh criticism because bloggers hated his lack of promo and “singles for the fans.” On top of these perceived missteps, he had no hit single. “Work Out” flopped, and “Can’t Get Enough” barely had any time to breathe before the release. Lupe Fiasco and Wiz Khalifa each had #1 singles in 2011, and Cole outsold both of their albums.
Based on his lame duck singles and the underground feel of Cole World, his own label had projected sales of 50,000 units first week. They had only shipped out 100,000 copies for the entire first month. J. Cole outsold his labels first month sales forecast in one day, and ended up quadrupling the labels first week projection. They underestimated and under shipped Cole World—but rightly so, no? Traditional industry thinking puts Cole World in that 50,000 units range. Deeper investigation is needed to uncover how Cole World managed to sell 217,000 copies. Hit the jump to see the five elements of J. Cole that added up to a #1 album.
I’ve seen J. Cole live maybe half a dozen times by now, and have been to four of his headlining shows. He usually opens with “Welcome”—an upbeat song (and one of my personal favorites) which leads off his second mixtape, The Warm Up. But all of those shows happened before J. Cole had an album date, or even a first single. With a world tour lined up and Cole World: The Sideline Story ready to finally hit stores tomorrow (although copies were available for purchase at the show), Cole lead off the night with a different track—a track that’s not even his. His legendary verse on G.O.O.D Music’s “Looking For Trouble” kicked the night off, with the first line being “Cole World make way for the chosen one/What you now hear is putting fear in all the older ones.” Given where Cole is at right now in his career, it’s an appropriate bar to start the night off with. He’s grown out of performing old mixtape tracks. It’s all about albums now. Cole World is the creation of rap’s new messiah, and last night was a celebration of what’s to come the next decade.
J. Cole is one of the most intense and energetic live performers around, but last night, he was a little more subdued. He suffered a sprained ankle two weeks ago, and performed last night in a giant walking boot. His movements were limited by his own standards, which are still more lively than many rappers. At one point, he got so into a track that he carelessly started running around the stage, and almost tripped and fell into a piano. His body had slowed down thanks to the walking boot, but his performance mentality sure didn’t.
To make up for his slowed walking boot movements, J. Cole injected more physicality into the mic. His rough voice boomed throughout the Roseland Ballroom, giving him extraordinary command of the venue and the crowd. I’ve discussed his crazy eyes in previous J. Cole show recaps, but they’re worth noting again. When he raps, he looks demonized. He’s so focused and locked into his performance—lock eyes with him while he’s rapping and it’ll feel like something just pierced your soul. There’s so much passion and pain in those eyes. Not many rappers can dominate a stage like J. Cole can.
He ran through a nice mixture of old mixtape cuts and new album songs. “In The Morning” got a great response, as did the energetic “Higher.” The live performance of “Work Out” totally justifies it’s bare existence. It’s a fun, sing-a-long track that Cole really gets into. Hearing “Mr. Nice Watch” on huge speakers for the first time made my face scrunch-up, while the premiere of “Nobody’s Perfect” (the best song on Cole World in my mind), had the whole crowd slowly rocking side-to-side.
J. Cole was also quick to remind everyone of his musical talents. He made it a point to pat himself on the back for producing most of Cole World, and did something that I’ve never seen a rapper do live before: play an instrument and rap at the same time. He played a stripped down version of “Lights Please” on the piano while running through the track—an impressive performance that showcased his talents. He’s faced so much criticism in 2011, causing people forget to acknowledge the incredible talent that is J. Cole.
It often seems like the biggest figure who refuses to acknowledge J. Cole’s talent is his boss and faux-mentor, Jay-Z. Their relationship will always be up for interpretation and discussion. Jay was in attendance tonight, and was briefly spotted in the balcony. Once he was spotted, he gave a short Pope wave to the mortals below and departed backstage. He didn’t make an appearance on-stage, which naturally adds fuel to the fire. Jay-Z will come out for Young Jeezy at the Highline Ballroom but won’t lend a hand during his protégé’s big New York City concert? Okay. That’s all I’ll say on the matter.
Jay-Z vs. J. Cole gossip aside—not many rappers can do what J. Cole does in the studio, on the mic and on the stage. I look forward to seeing him again in October when he makes the NYC stop on the “Cole World Tour.” Be sure to pick up Cole World: The Sideline Story tomorrow. I’ll be attending his in-store signing at J&R!
Oh and shout out to J. Cole for acknowledging my LVRS snapback at the end of the show. Swag. Also it was good catching up with Voli and Vic after the show. Good talks guys. JD was a fashionably late balcony baller once again.
UPDATED WITH VIDEOS:
J. Cole has been biding his time. The lead-up to his debut album, Cole World: The Sideline Story, hasn’t been the smoothest for Jay-Z’s hand-picked protege. After a year of delays, scrapped songs, misfiring singles and constant crowing from the Twitter gallery, Cole World has arrived, featuring strong material and sounds that are familiar to J. Cole fans.
Over the past few months, J. Cole has faced extraordinary criticism, particularly for his production. Fans raged that he gave some of his stronger instrumentals to other artists (“Hiipower” was gifted to Kendrick Lamar and Wale received “Bad Girls Club”), and more ardent critics characterized the beats he kept for himself as “boring.”
On Cole World, it’s clear who J. Cole was saving the best beats for: himself. There are plenty of epic grand piano chords coupled with more delicate keys. He relies less on vocal samples compared to previous projects, but chooses powerful ones on “God’s Gift” and “Rise and Shine.” Electric guitars are found throughout the album: whether it’s wild noodling on “Can’t Get Enough,” light riffing on “Sideline Story” or whammy bar whining on the dubstep inspired “Mr. Nice Watch,” J. Cole was sure to incorporate a timeless but seldom used instrument in hip-hop.
More difficult production skills to master are “the drop” and the proper placement of instruments. Having the beat drop at the right moment and also adding extra production during key points in a song is something that Kanye West, Chad Hugo and Just Blaze are masters of. J. Cole isn’t in that class yet, but he has a feel for the craft. When he raps “Mozart meets Humphrey Bogart” on “Dollar And A Dream III,” an extra piano riff is brought in to connect the piano virtuoso name-drop to the beat. On “Nobody’s Perfect,” J. Cole tantalizes the listener with a few bars while a stop-start guitar riff begs for more. A deep bass drop brings the song to another level, creating a smooth, slow head-bopper, which is further aided by Missy Elliott’s cool voice on the hook.
Missy Elliott, Trey Songz, Drake and Jay-Z are the only features on the album, which is chock-full of Cole bars. Each song is like playing a game of “connect the dots.” There are extended metaphors littered and hidden throughout each verse, making them more cohesive. On “Sideline Story” begins his third verse by mentioning Roc Nation and Jay-Z. He then compares his relationship with Jigga to leaders in the same industry but were active in different ears: Pacquaio and Rocky and LeBron and Jordan are used.
His usual themes of poverty, Black social conditions and relationships are present, but they’re more concentrated. “Lost Ones” is a mock conversation between a pregnant couple who fight over getting an abortion. The writing is detailed and vivid—it’s like a screenwriter wrote the track. Instead of speaking on the attitude of Black males in a relationship on general terms, J. Cole targeted a very specific aspect of the issue and dealt with it in a creative way.
He’s never been much of a playboy or whiner when it comes to women, but the ladies surprisingly played a large role on Cole World. J. Cole shared a wide range of his different relationships with women. He’s got a “main-chick, a mistress and some hoes” on “Can’t Get Enough.” He’s a passionate lover on “In The Morning,” a club-hopping, bad-bitch searching man on “Cole World” and “Mr. Nice Watch,” a nervous future baby-daddy on “Lost Ones,” a cheater on “Never Told,” and a man who claims “Nobody’s perfect/Hey but you’re perfect for me.” It’s hard to take all of these conflicting sides to J. Cole to heart when he’s apparently still with his college girlfriend. However, his extensive and varied (if confused) exploration of male feelings is a strength, because it makes Cole World that much more relatable.
Cole, using his impassioned, intense voice and lively flow, often navigates his world from the view of a man on the outside looking in (hence, the “Sideline Story” metaphor). He doesn’t do much soul searching—rather, he tells people who he is and what he’s observed, which can be wrapped up by one line on “Lights Please”: “The more I grow the more y’all seem to stay the same.”
For all of the technical brilliance in Cole World, it’s ultimately undone by an uncomfortable lack of flow. The album never really seems to settle in or reach highpoint. “Mr. Nice Watch,” a song inspired dubstep and electro (it sounds like a Watch The Throne throwaway), is right in the middle of the album. It’s then followed by the title track “Cole World,” which features a running synth. The two songs that shouldn’t be on the album are right in the middle of it. They’re completely out of place: the tone and feel of the tracks aren’t consistent with the rest of Cole World.
All together, Cole World sounds like an album that J. Cole has already released. He’s embracing a consistent set sounds of themes, but there’s a feeling that he’s revisiting what he’s already throughly explored on previous projects, but not necessarily in a better way.
In interviews, J. Cole has repeatedly refuted the misconception that he’s a backpack rapper, and did so again on “Dollar And A Dream III”: “They try to call me underground, I spun around like ‘you wish’/Homie my backpack Louis.” With Cole World, J. Cole has finally emerged from the hip-hop blogosphere with a potent, if predictable message. It’s no “Villematic,” but it’s a solid debut for a rapper who’s primed to lead hip-hop this decade. Young Simba is ready to become a King.
Cole World earns 3.5 blunts, so light another one up.
The entire album is streaming on J. Cole’s website now. He’s dealt with the leak pretty well, and choosing to stream the album is a smart choice. Also be sure to go out and support on the 27th. I pre-ordered my copy already, and if you haven’t yet, hit up iTunes.