It’s sort of a good thing that J. Cole has so many dedicated fans. Well, it’s good for him. The rest of us I’m not so sure about. You see, because J. Cole fans are so vehement in their insistence that he’s a legend, an icon, and one of the top three rappers in the game today, he’s been lulled into a false sense of security, a sort of complacency that mistakes “platinum with no features” for “universally beloved” and “too good to mingle with the rest of these rap plebs.”
K.O.D. has been billed as Cole’s most creative, most sonically experimental album yet. The cover suggests he’ll spend the duration of the album addressing rap’s current fascination with pills and lean and cloud rap turn ups and he does. Unfortunately, K.O.D. is also exactly what you’d expect from a Cole effort attempting to imitate trap or mumble rap: It’s condescending, failing to understand the underlying tenets of those genres because he thinks he’s too good for them, it’s half-assed, only partially attempting to make a go of utilizing the booming 808s and rollicking, rumbling synths of trap, and then, halfway through, Cole simply gives up on the conceit and goes back to making a standard J. Cole album. Oh, and regardless of all appearances to the contrary, hip-hop doesn’t actually have a drug problem after all.
While he’s a great person, his musical endeavors have been middling, but hyped into commercial successes, which has caused a dissonant reception from critics and fans, a sort of “you have to separate the art from the artist” reasoning in reverse. Look no further than the rollout for Cole’s latest offering, K.O.D.; no music videos, just clips of fans lining up at his secret listening sessions in New York and London and reacting rapturously afterward — which you’d expect them to do, because they are J. Cole’s most staunch supporters.