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REVIEW: J. Cole carves his own path with ‘KOD’

Cole Confronts Addiction

J. Cole carves his own path with KOD, another entirely featureless concept album from the Dreamville label founder that speaks about overcoming addiction in what is quite possibly his darkest record to date.

Prior to its release, J. Cole went onto Twitter to share the cryptic three-fold meaning behind the project which states right on the package, “this album is in no way intended to glorify addiction.” According to the 33-year-old North Carolina rapper/producer the acronym “K.O.D.,” refers to one of three things “Kids on Drugs,” “King Overdosed,” and “Kill Our Demons.”

The album opens with a jazzy introduction about how newborns only have two primary modes of communication, laughter and crying and how our upbringing influences the ways we deal with pain. Choose wisely.

The title track is everything listeners have been waiting for… another banger that is unquestionably hard. “Photograph” is where we hear the darkness interfere as J. Cole talks about mental health. Of course, the song is much more complex and leads listeners to draw their own conclusions.

Ever the enigmatic lyricist, we see his metamorphosis into a drug-addled split persona, kiLL Edward, on “The Cut Off” which speaks about closing yourself off to get hurt by people who are only out for themselves.

The album is a complete trip… even the artwork resembles characters and imagery similar to Lewis Carroll‘s classic story, Alice in Wonderland. This might explain why J. Cole decided to go deeper down the “rabbit hole” than he ever has before with the cryptically-titled introspective track “ATM,” which talks about his relationship with money, fame, and success.

While “Motiv8” is easily one of the more melodically upbeat songs on the album, it is also probably the most complex. In it, we hear J. Cole talk about times when his demons are close and caving to the stress of his busy rockstar lifestyle.

Addiction remains the underlying theme throughout the album, but “Kevin’s Heart,” speaks about someone who has become so completely obsessed by the drugs that they let it ruin their life. Wittingly named after the 5’4” comedian, the track criticizes Kevin Hart for cheating on his wife as he stares into the mirror and reflects about how “fake” he has become.

The root of the album’s concept comes towards the end with “Once an Addict (Interlude)” about his mother’s dependency on alcohol and how he too found himself dealing with pain with drugs and alcohol.

“Friends” is where we see Cole first confront his demons, reciting the mantra “Meditate, meditate, meditate, meditate. Don’t medicate, medicate, don’t medicate, medicate.” He follows with “Window Pain (Outro)” a song about a child who witnesses his cousin shot in the street as he begins to ponder what could have led him to meet such a fate. It is here when we hear J. Cole begin to “pull himself out” by reminding himself to be grateful for the life he is given.

The album closes with “1985 (Intro to “The Fall Off”)” which both teases fans to another potential album in the works, although some speculate it is the same album played in reverse order. It recaps the rappers entire life from birth to how he first came up in the music industry. In the track, we hear him rip into the younger generation of hip-hop while reflecting on the fact that he more-or-less did the same.

It is vastly different from his previous multi-platinum selling concept album 2014 Forest Hill Drive (2014)… and to be completely honest KOD is not like anything you have probably ever heard before. J. Cole’s latest is possibly one of the biggest albums to drop in 2018, which makes it well worth the listen even if you have never been introduced to J. Cole’s music before. 

RATING: 5 / 5

LISTEN: J. COLE – ‘KOD’

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