By Ian Bremner

The last time J. Cole had a new record was December 2014. Much like this year, the album dropped right as all the music nerds and blogospheres had just released their “Best Albums Of The Year” lists. Subsequently, 2014 Forest Hills Drive never made those lists, but that never really mattered to Cole. It won’t matter this year either. In 20 years, no one will be talking about year-end lists or who had the 16th best album in 2016, but will still be listening to J. Cole.

That’s the type of artist the North Carolina MC has become over the last 5-6 years. Slowly building a loyal fan base with early mixtapes, collaborations with names like Kenrick Lamar and Jay-Z, putting out proper albums that get better and better and truly doing it on his own terms. His style, skill, and stature easily make him prime for the mainstream, and while he certainly has had dashes of that lifestyle, he seems to prefer the old-school route of just being a damn good rapper. The art always comes first.

J. Cole has a lot to say and he deserves our attention because what he says matters. This is a man who chilled the nerves of America on Letterman instead of promoting 2014 Forest Hills. Promotion for 4 Your Eyez Only consisted of dropping two new songs, False Prophets and Everybody Dies, in which he comes out firing against the current state of hip hop, all but claiming the rap throne. While everyone was looking for beef and talking about which fellow rappers he was referencing, the album was released and neither of those songs are even on the record.

4 Your Eyez Only is about family. It’s a story line. It’s poetic and layered and deserves intent listening. It’s an album with the ability to grow and produce new meaning each listen through, the way the best rap albums do. Enough reading, start listening.

Listen to 4 Your Eyez Only