Usually, music reviews provide an overall feel to an album, provide a few sample tracks and ultimately, let the listener decide for themselves. They should, at least. Music is an art form that is interpreted differently for each person and should be respected that way. That is why some people prefer Anthrax and others prefer Fergie. Neither of which are “bad”- ok, maybe that theory isn’t ALWAYS accurate, but the point is, people like what they like. That is why, when you ask a J.Cole, how do you say.. enthusiast, Braulio Perez to write a review, you get more of an Op-Ed roadtrip to memory town, and thats OK. For the record, 2014 Forest Hills Drive is phenomenal hip hop record and when a professional sportswriter for NJ.com spills his heart out, you let the man write what he damn well pleases. – OR
By: Braulio Perez
MANHATTAN— The angered “Best Buy” employee’s patience was being tested.
It was 11:59 p.m. on Monday evening and I was at the Union Square store in New York City. Surrounded by around 7-8 others, including a honey I met from London (I should have got her number!), we approached the “new releases” section.
“Why we got people asking for the J. Cole album already,” the angered worker said. “It doesn’t come out until tomorrow.”
“Man, it’s fine,” a younger employee replied. “It’s almost midnight. They’re allowed to buy it in like a minute or something.”
2014 Forest Hills Drive.
I apologize to the short, balding, middle-aged man, but myself and the others who ventured the 30-degree New York weather had been waiting a long time for this night. This isn’t just any album for Cole. It’s been nearly 17 months since he dropped Born Sinner and a lot of people were wondering when this was coming. He had something to prove this time around.
He had dropped some tunes, like on Jan. 28, his 29th birthday, with Revenge of the Dreamers, but fans were ready for something more. We needed Cole. And with Forest Hills Drive, we got it. But, this was old Cole.
Born Sinner was great, I loved it. But it had a different feel to it. It had jams, yes, but it seemed like he was going in a different direction. It had a new feel, which I wasn’t used to. It was much slower from a rhythmic standpoint. The beats produced didn’t have that same energy from his younger cuts.
That wasn’t the case this time around.
How many people listened to the new album and it took them back to 2010? Man, I swear as soon as I heard Wet Dreamz, I felt like I was back in college at Washington State University. I thought I was listening to Friday Night Lights again. This had that feel of 25-year-old Cole, even younger. I thought I was listening to the guy who left his family back in Fayetville, N.C., to chase the dream in New York City and make it big. That’s Dreamville baby.
And throughout Forest Hills Drive, you could tell he was going back to those days. What you must understand about Cole is that he may have the money, cars, females and jewelry, but at the end of the day, he’s still true to his roots, which he elaborates lyrically with nothing but passion.
This is a St. John’s alum, who graduated Magna Cum Laude. Guy’s a genius and he brings up his St. John’s days frequently. He loves rewinding the clock and getting nostalgic, which is probably why I love his music so much.
“Cole World. Let me take y’all back man. As I do so well.” –Wet Dreamz
With Wet Dreamz, my goodness. This song was my favorite off the album hands down. It had that old school flow and beat, no question. He took it way back and rhymed about his first time getting down with a girl. Spoke about the nerves, the preparation and what was going on in his head. I think any guy who listens to the song 100 percent can relate to it. I’ve hit the play button for this particular song probably 30 times since I picked up my copy. It’s incredible. If you haven’t heard it yet, stop whatever the hell you’re doing. Honestly, listen to it right now.
Moving along, I thought No Role Modelz was similar to Wet Dreamz in the sense of that old Cole flavor. The beat was so smooth and he had some classic witty lines that made me just shake my head in amazement.
Keep in mind I bought this album at midnight, so I didn’t get home until about 1 a.m. to have my first listen. By the time I got to No Role Modelz, it was probably like 2:30 a.m or something.
“I want that real love, dark skin and Aunt Viv love, that Jada and that Will love. That leave your toothbrush at your crib love and you ain’t gotta wonder if that’s your kid love.”
I don’t know why those bars stood out to me so much. I can’t really explain it right now, it just did. When he said that, I sat up in my bed, scratched my head, and said to myself, “What did he just say?” Of course I had like 40 Fresh Prince of Bel Air scenes flash through my mind, too. That’s what his music does to you. Obviously not the first time he’s left me blown away with his lyrics. He’s just that good.
Both those songs, more than any, reminded me of his mix-tape days. The Warm Up, Friday Night Lights, those kind of tracks. Cole prides himself on getting nostalgic with his music, which, again, stands out to me.
I get the question a lot and I understand. I’m a huge fan and a lot of people know it.
“Why you like him so much, man?”
It’s simple—that nostalgic feeling I get when I listen to his music. Whenever I put on Friday Night Lights, it takes me back to my senior year of college and 400 Campus St. Pullman, Wash. I didn’t live there, but my best friends did. This includes Old Rookie founder, Ian Bremner.
There were so many nights where I’d stop by the corner market, grab some 40s and head over to “40 Ounce.” We’d listen to Cole, toss back some brews and send the mass texts to girls to come over and kick it. We’d then go to Kokomo (a sorority liveout) before heading to the bar. Those were some of the best memories of my life and each time I listen to Cole, it takes me back to those days.
And with Forest Hills Drive, it did the same. Cole’s music takes you back to times in your life that seem distant. People’s lives change dramatically (not always in a bad way), but if you need an escape or a reminder of the glory days, Cole helps you with that.
I still say Sideline Story is his best album and Friday Night Lights was his best mix-tape. But Forest Hills Drive had everything you’d want from his third album. It had the 2010 flavor, the hard tracks like Fire Squad and G.O.M.D. (banger!) and it had the Born Sinner feel with Love Yourz and January 28th. It was almost like we had the style of his last 7-8 years of music wrapped into 13 songs.
Another song that stood out to me was Apparently. This was one where he, once again, goes back in time. This one was about his mother. The first time I heard it, it kind of reminded me of a newer version of Tupac’s Hey Mama. Cole grew up in a fatherless home. His mom was his rock throughout the family struggle growing up. As soon as he made it big, he had her leave her job at the post office. He was set, but she was now set too.
“Think back to Forest Hills, no perfect home. But the only thing like home I’ve ever known until they snatched it from my mama and foreclosed her on the loan. I’m so sorry that I left you there to deal with that alone. I was up in New York City chasin’ panties, gettin’ dome.”
Powerful stuff. And now, as most know, he purchased that same house back. But he’s using it as a place where families, going through some of the same struggles he and his mother went through, can live near rent free to get back on their feet.
To no one’s shock, I’d give this album an A. It was worth the wait and he did his thing. If you haven’t already, get on iTunes to give it a listen, or better yet, head to your nearest Best Buy or Target and cop the physical. I assure you that you won’t be let down.
His musical style is different than most and he doesn’t force things, which is why he’s a favorite to millions of listeners across the globe. This author included.
Top Tracks: Wet Dreamz, No Role Modelz, G.O.M.D. and Apparently.
Official Video for Apparently
2014 Forest Hills Drive