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Album Review: The Off-Season by J. Cole

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Jermaine Cole, or better known as J. Cole, is a rapper, singer, and producer raised in North Carolina. J. Cole is definitely debated as one of the most influential rappers of the current era, usually matched up against Kendrick Lamar. Other than that, J. Cole gained a lot of popularity with his 2014 release of 2014 Forest Hills Drive. With other projects in between, J. Cole drops his sixth studio album, The Off-Season.

The first track from the album is 9 5 . s o u t h. It's a very promising track to open up the album and the grand return for J. Cole. We have a loud and blaring horn section to open up J. Cole, as well as a quick introduction. The title of the track refers to I-95 which is a road in the United States, and could also refer to the hip hop group in Florida. Other than that, it's a road that runs through where he grew up in North Carolina. J. Cole just seems to be rapping about the rap game and how it has changed to what it is today.

a m a r i changes the tone of the album quickly. It open sup with an eerie guitar opening as well as J. Cole giving some quick vocal parts where he's singing. After the track opens up a bit, it seems like there's some Travis Scott or Future influences, especially with some of the auto-tune. Bas sent out a tweet that Cole titled the track after his nephew. Cole seems to talk about how he grew up in North Carolina as well as mentioning his record label, Dreamville Records.

m y . l i f e opens up with a popular sample from The Life by Styles P. It's such a fitting feature, especially since the track mentions "My Life" several times. Other than that, I'm a bit surprised by some of the features, especially from 21 Savage. A lot of people talk about how 21 Savage has grown a lot since he started rapping. While he's definitely moving out of the mumble rap category, he's still rapping about some of the same things. Besides that, this track talks about continuing to push through to be successful in life and what it could have been like if they didn't stick through the hard times.

a p p l y i n g . p r e s s u r e was quickly ruined with the MLG horns at the beginning of the track. It has a great beat, but the horns... I have no clue why J. Cole would even allow such a thing to be on this track. It's sad because the beat goes hard and J. Cole has some pretty decent lines on here. On this track, he talks about how a lot of rappers like to show their glamorous life, even though they aren't rich. He also talks about how some of the rappers fake their struggle when growing.

p u n c h i n ' . t h e . c l o c k is one of the quicker tracks on the album, and it just clocks in under two minutes in length. I'm not really feeling this track too much, but I guess it's good that it's short. It has some voice/instrument backing noise, as well as some bell like sounds. The ringing bells can get a bit repetitive and stale, especially since it sounds like a doorbell. The interesting part of the track though is Damian Lillard and his post-game interview sample.

1 0 0 . m i l ' is another track that features some of J. Coles singing at the beginning. J. Cole talks about how he has a lot of money, however, he talks about how it's not about the money in the end. He talks about how it's more about trying to improve his craft and be a better rapper than the previous album he released. I wish we would have gotten more from Bas on this track, especially since it's been three years since his previous album release.

p r i d e . i s . t h e . d e v i l is another track that seems to highlight Cole's singing voice, and it seems like we get a lot more from that side of him on here. This is another track I'm not too excited about. We have another guitar sample, but it's definitely mellowed out with the overpowered percussion instruments layered over it. Other than that, Cole talks about how excessive pride can be a bad thing and how temptation has been getting the best of him lately.

l e t . g o . m y . h a n d is definitely one of the more jazz focused tracks on the album. We got the synth, saxophone, and easy going drumkit that carries the beat. With the title of the track, he seems to focus on the concept of his son and him wanting his dad to let go of his hand so he could grow as a person. He also talks about the fear of himself and his son about being black in America. He also talks about his doubts as a rapper.

i n t e r l u d e was one of the promotional singles for this album. I didn't really care for this that much, especially with so many other amazing tracks on this album. I'm glad that I didn't let my opinion of this track get me down about this album. However, with a title like this, I knew it had to be one of the weaker and shorter tracks on the album. We also get an interesting outro where the tone of the track changes a bit.

One of my favorites and strongest track on the album is t h e . c l i m b . b a c k. It opens up with a question asking about whether growing is more important, or becoming famous. The chorus features some jumpy lines from Cole, but besides that, he finally opens up during the verses. Other than that, it talks about how J. Cole fell back into his love for rap, and also goes into some of the different experiences in his life.

After that we come to c l o s e. This is mostly just a long freestyle track since we don't have a chorus on here. As for the beat, we have some female vocal samples that seem to be pitched up a bit with a simple drum beat. The track seems to be a bit more serious in nature since it talks about an old and close friend of his. His friend got involved in gangs and drugs, and that eventually lead to their friendship falling apart and his friend dying.

The final track we have on the album is h u n g e r . o n . h i l l s i d e. We get to hear more of Cole's singing on this track again. We have some beautiful strings on here and some beautiful vocals from Bas again. J. Cole eventually switches his tone and gets to more of his fast rapping during the second verse. He basically talks about how he's going to be the same person that he is now, no matter how successful he is.

The beginning of the album started out strong, however, the closer we got to the end of the album, the more misses I was able to find. Nonetheless, this was still an amazing album from J. Cole.
Overall Rating: 7/10
Favorite Tracks: 9 5 . s o u t h, m y . l i f e, a p p l y i n g . p r e s s u r e, l e t . g o . m y . h a n d, t h e . c l i m b . b a c k
 
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