J. Cole – The Off-Season (Album Review)

Miguel Meza

J Cole made his long awaited return to the mainstream with this album that has been teased for over 2 years. One of the most politically and socially conscious rappers at the forefront of a genre that is usually dismissed as anything but, Cole has been notably absent during a turbulent time for the African-American community in the United States and after warning the public of drug abuse in his last album K.O.D. (Kids on Drugs) it is finally time to talk about his newest work.

First off, it must be noted that while this is a full release by Cole, it is also mainly a continuation of K.O.D., serving to be an epilogue of sorts that allows him to tie up some thematic loose ends. Mainly, Cole continues to reflect on the way that his fame and fortune continue to remind of a past where he once dreamt about this very position he is in. The appreciation he has for the culture and genre that made him a star continues to be something he wants to elevate.

This is where the production really comes into play with the lyrics. Cole is a hip-hop artist in the most traditional sense and only dips into R&B hooks and bridges that accentuate the way he masterfully crafts his bars over the bouncy tracks by T-Minus. As the name suggests, the “Off Season” is an opportunity for Cole to focus more on the details of how he likes to make music rather than put out another full on artistic experience like 2014 Forest Hill Drive and K.O.D.

So outside of the lack of over-arching theme throughout this singular project, Cole flexes his ability to allow features to shine on his projects as Lil Baby, 6lack, Bas, and multiple-time collaborator 21 Savage and even “Killa Cam” Cam’Ron all make expertly entertaining features that keep the casual-ish vibe of the project and underline Cole’s lyrical genius as he references everything from local utility managements to 90s television and his infamous scrap with Diddy to the website Squarespace. Its unreal how deep his imagination tends to go when he remains focused.

In the end, this album is a great listen in full and a good addition to his discography that will only help solidify his position as one of the greatest rappers in history. However, it does feel like a middle-of-the-road project that lacks the gravitas of his other big albums but falls right in line with the likes of 4 Your Eyez Only.

8/10

Favorite Songs: “95 South”, “100 Mil”, “Pride is The Devil”, & “My Life”

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