J. Cole just released his highly anticipated album, “The Off-Season (Roc Nation / Dreamville) .” With production from Timbaland, Boi-1da, and frequent favorite T-Minus. We were surprised from the guest cameos by 21 Savage, Lil Baby, and Cam’ron. Since his last release, “KOD,” Cole went on a “feature spree” collaborating with different artists by the likes of Gang Starr’s, “Family and Loyalty,” Ty Dolla $igns, “Purple Emoji” and 21 Savage’s Grammy Award winning “alot.” In 2018, Cole’s label released “ROTD 3” which was critically acclaimed from the rollout to the now infamous Atlanta sessions with some of today’s top rappers/vocalists. In 2020 he released “The Climb Back,” (from The Off-Season) “Lion King on Ice,” and “Snow on tha Bluff.” Today, “The Off-Season” is here.
The album starts with the well influenced New York style Cole picked up while in college. Cam’ron joins and brings his bodacious witty style hyping Cole to remind other rappers to step their pens up.
On “95 . s o u t h,” he reminds rappers who released 30-song type albums for streams that he does not need that type of content to devour them on the charts. My kind of bragging. With the help of a Lil’ Jon sample the energy could not be more high as it transitions into the more mellow “a m a r i.” With the help of T-Minus and the great Timbaland, Cole reflects on his success and the ups and downs of making it through to where he is now.
Then he joins by his right hand partner 21 Savage for “my . l i f e” a song in which both the artists show off elite bars on a classic soul sample, staying in the range of their last hit, “alot.” “Know when I’m done you gon miss me.”
The next track, “a p p l y i n g . p r e s s u r e” gives us that 90s swag that influenced who Cole is today immensely as he shuts down the internet talk and the way other rappers throw shots at him, “I got my mind on much bigger things, to say the least.” Cole fans love the cocky downplay of not caring what anyone says or thinks of him in any nature, the bars are proof in the pudding. We hear from Dame Dolla throughout the track “p u n c h i n’ . t h e . c l o c k” as Cole says he is “teetering between enlightened and insanity.” He continues to talk about his passions between rap and basketball. He is still chasing all of his dreams.
On “1 0 0 . m i l’” he speaks of his continued hunger for more. “Can’t leave the game yet, I feel like LeBron,” there is more work to do, more to accomplish, the grind never stops. He brings in probably the most popular artist in the game at the moment Lil’ Baby for “p r i d e . i s . t h e . d e v i l” Cole speaks of the fears of pride being his downfall. He and Lil Baby exchange A-list bars which I think could make this the most successful song from this album
During “l e t . g o . m y . h a n d” Cole gives us a little bit more perspective of life. The most interesting part of this album comes from a line in which Cole states that his last fight occurred with “Puff Daddy” as he called him. Leaving us all wanting to know more about this situation. Towards the end of the album, Cole continues to hit us with metaphors and double entendres and even pleads his case as to why he should be on the Mount Rushmore of hip-hop. After a three year wait I believe this album is very solid for his catalog. Continued classic bars and maybe a few songs that will last for a very long time. Solid album, we are looking forward to more from Cole very soon.
Features, Elite Bars, Production, Replay Value
No Stand Out Hits, Lacks Energetic Tracks
Sports & Culture Editor for SWGRUS.