The Good: J. Cole accomplished something that many of his contemporaries could not; he managed to break through with his debut album and come out with his integrity intact. It’s all there on Cold World: The Sideline Story: the vivid storytelling (“Sideline Story”, “Lost Ones”); the honest introspection (“Breakdown”); and top-flight emceeing (“Dollar and a Dream III”). Cole even handled the reigns behind the boards — to great effect (“Rise and Shine,” “God’s Gift”).
The Bad: Surprisingly, the weakest moments on Cole World weren’t the radio-ready singles but artlessly clubby album cuts like the disappointing Jay-Z collabo “Mr. Nice Watch” and unfocused title-track. And perhaps in an attempt to make his debut set more commercially accessible, Cole toned down the intricacy of his lyrics, minimizing one of his biggest strengths as an MC.
The Lovely: It may not have been the classic debut that Cole and his fans had hoped for, but Cole World: The Sideline Story is a solid foundation of content and style on which to build. For an album that shot to number #1 in its first week of release with close to 220,000 albums sold, Cole World solidifies Jermaine’s position as one of the more promising young artists in the game. — Samir S.