Gotty’s Note: The following article was written pre-album leak. Enjoy.
Internet crossover attempts usually follow a predictable arc. One minute you can’t do anything wrong. You’re under the radar and every song you drop creates genuine fanfare. A few missteps later via inorganic mainstream pandering, album delays or whatever other foolishness you can muster and you got some long time supporters lookin’ at you sideways. We’ve seen it time and again with a laundry list of artists. Now, the case applies case to J. Cole as he stands at the crossroads of recent criticism.
It seems like just yesterday when Jermaine’s The Warm Up dropped. His story couldn’t be more endearing. A bright-eyed country boy emerges as a promising talent right before our eyes with a high-profile co-sign that soon followed. Now we’re less than two weeks away from his major label debut in Cole World: The Sideline Story. This is evidently an exciting time for the young MC considering he dealt with delays and having “Who Dat” stumble out the gate. But his recent attempts at singles has divided public opinion.
First, “Work Out” made the rounds and it appeared J. Cole’s storm finally started brewing. What should’ve been a great initiation party turned to some parts confusion, other parts ambivalence. The beat comes off a bit mundane and sleepy while J. Cole awkwardly flaunts about in hopes to crack Top 40. The same can be said for the Trey-assisted “Can’t Get Enough”. Songz appearance plus Rihanna’s inclusion in the video tries to make it seem like Cole’s catapulted into mainstream music’s cool club. After that the infamous “Mr. Nice Watch” hit the internet with its much ballyhooed Jay-Z verse. The song’s still new but hasn’t hit the chords one would expect from one of rap music’s next up.
The song’s tepid feedback has much to do with their barefaced catering to a broadened audience. What’s worse is it’s not like J. Cole can’t fend for himself; he can write and produced most of his debut. However he’s yet to project himself as an artist who can develop “hits” Roc Nation and some of his fans expect from him. So, while he and his team work out the kinks towards pop stardom, we’re getting these uninspired tracks instead of hearing more natural, consistent tunes in the vein of “Blow Up” and “Premeditated Murder”. Each more recent song plays like he’s reading off cookbook instructions for the first time on the way to mediocre meal. He’s capable of making creations with his own flair but the situation doesn’t call for it. Why? The management likes dinner by the books. The end product is devoid of every trademark he used previously to make his music unique. Yet the bosses’ recipe is easy to prepare, efficient to create en masse and attracts the most customers, quality be damned.
Perhaps Cole’s encountering the growing pains of becoming an artist with everyone gawking at his every move. Besides, singles have a habit of drawing ambivalence while the album cuts are head and shoulders better. What’s certain is his aforementioned efforts plainly show him out of his element. Here’s hoping the trend doesn’t seep into the meat of Cole World.