It’s been a hot minute since I’ve done an album review, I know. Never fear though, I’m back on it and one of the last albums I’ll be reviewing for 2014 is Forest Hills Drive by J. Cole.
One of the things that made me a fan of Cole’s music is his storytelling, his honesty, and his talent of putting things into perspective. I feel that’s most fans’ reasoning behind loving J. Cole’s music.
Now, I didn’t do a review on Cole’s album from last year, Born Sinner, or I might have… It’s been so long *laughs* I don’t even remember but all in all, I liked it but it wasn’t my favorite project from him. Something about Born Sinner was lacking for me. So going into 2014, I heard that new J. Cole music would be dropping and I was like, “Okay, maybe it’ll be better this time.”
I was right.
Now, I will say Forest Hills Drive wasn’t a perfect LP. There’s definitely moments on here that weren’t memorable for me or moments that weren’t contributive to the album as a whole. But, however, there were a lot of moments on this album that reminded me about why I was a fan of J. Cole in the first place.
For example, like I mentioned before, Cole’s talent of capturing moments and narrating stories through his music is one of the reasons I became a fan of his music. One of the tracks on Forest Hills Drive brought his story telling to light; that track was “Wet Dreamz.” It was a rather.. endearing (lol) tune about, I’m supposing J. Cole, losing his virginity to a girl who thought he was already an experienced lover.
Now for his honesty and his knack for taking things and putting it into perspective…
This album was different from any previous project he’s put out. Let’s talk about how Cole had no features on this album which is very rare nowadays. I think that highlights just how personal this album was for him. He also did little promotion for the album and released not one single off the project. The title alone hints that this is a personal album and different from his previous albums. Forest Hills Drive is the street he grew up on and the roof he’s sitting on on the album cover is the roof of his childhood home.
Cole kept it real on this album. I give him that. His track “Fire Squad” was definitely where he kept it all the way real. On this track he talks about how hip-hop’s sound has been stolen and manipulated by white people which is… well true. He even drops names of white artists such as Macklemore and Iggy Azalea who have been accused of exploiting and appropriating black culture, more specifically hip-hop. He talks about how hip-hop is now this power structure manipulated by white people and how average white rappers are placed above black rappers simply because they’re white and more “marketable.” That track has sparked a bit of controversy but nonetheless, it was necessary.
Now, reason why I say this LP isn’t perfect is because the album started off strong with an emotionally charged intro but then… as the album carried on, that fire at the beginning kinda died for me. The tracks towards the end of the album just didn’t do anything for me. They seemed like “fillers” to me; songs that are just there to take up space on an album. Cole’s “thank you’s” at the end was endearing but my point still stands.
The production was more consistent on this album than it was for Born Sinner for me. There were really strong instrumentals on Born Sinner and then there were really weak instrumentals. On this album, the stronger instumentals outnumbered the weak ones.
I know there were complaints about Cole’s singing on this album lol, he’s trying. I, personally, didn’t mind it but I could see why it would annoy others. I mean, he’s experimenting, I’ll give him that.
Lyrically, it was pretty average which didn’t come as a surprise for me. I’ve already stated this before but Cole isn’t the strongest lyricist, well at least to me he isn’t. Cole does this frustrating thing where he mentions something significant but doesn’t elaborate or build off that thought. Please correct me if I’m wrong but I believe on one of the tracks he mentioned his mom was struggling back at home and he was too busy living life in the fast lane. He didn’t build off that. He didn’t even seem remorseful or thoughtful about the line.
I would say, overall, this was a solid album. It was a step up, not a step down. It was pretty good. It had weak moments but it had a lot of strong moments too.
Word has it is that J. Cole and Kendrick Lamar are suppose to be dropping an album together next year so we’ll see how that’ll go…
But as for Forest Hills Drive, I give it a 3.7 out of 5.