As a writer, I appreciate a great story teller; J. Cole is a rapper born to tell a story. From his first mix tape The Warm Up, I fell in love with his raw honesty on “Lights Please.” Such a deep brother is a nice inhale of fresh air from the smog filling my soul on a daily basis from the crap on the radio. And it’s not just me. People are loving this renaissance of “realism” in our music. The other day, I was watching his video for “Crooked Smile” featuring TLC. It’s truly an uplifting tune, but I was actually paying more attention to the video. Commenters on YouTube (Best believe that there is ALWAYS a fight in the comments section) argued that the visuals had nothing to do with the lyrics which I actually agree with. But here was J. Cole retelling a true story about a man getting arrested for selling a dime bag of weed. But that’s not the real heartache. The cops stormed into his house like it was a drug raid, arrested him, and shot his daughter on her birthday when they saw her peeking out from her room. He leaves us with this at the very end: And Please Reconsider Your War on Drugs. It had me scratching my head like what does that mean? In the comments section, two people were having an intense discussion about the war on drugs. One spoke about a documentary called “The House I Live In.” I found it on Netflix and was mind blown about what’s really going on in the prison system. It’s terrible and is practically a legal form of genocide. The point I’m trying to make is just from checking out J. Cole’s video, my mind was able to expand; my conscious was taken to another world. It opened me up to a new issue I never thought twice about. J. Cole really makes you think and I respect him so much for that. I listened to Forest Hills Drive the other day and just felt I had to write about it. For anyone who’s a fan of his knows it came out last year, but it’s better late than never right?
When listening to Forest Hills Drive, imagine sitting right across from Cole. You’ll see the emotion spread across his face as he lets you into his past, his dreams, his fears, his life all in an hour and six minutes. Feel the acne and butterflies from teen years rise up when tuning in “Wet Dreams.” This time warp of a track takes us back to two teenagers, young Cole pretending to have “experience” and a young lady who is indeed inexperienced facing intimacy for the first time. It’s so cute it will make you blush; Oh what the imagination of a young man will make him do. In “Adolescence,” he literally shares the thoughts of his teenage self – a shy guy wanting more out of life. He almost gets into the drug game, but his wise “mentor” wakes him up and reminds him of his own potential. The lone wolf cries combined with the slow beat take my senses to the cold fence he was once perched on in this self awareness tale.
“A Tale of Two Cities” and “Fire Squad” go into the desperate minds of the cunning living in a land where trying to survive is not enough. His flow in “Fire Squad” has my head bobbing so much I might be tempted to drop some F bombs at random in the street with my arms pumped up. Side Note: I do not curse. I love the message he relays from the middle to the end about how rappers are always talking about who’s the best instead of waking up and realizing who’s taking their sound. He further goes in to say that we are all kings; we shouldn’t “cling to the need for power….Today I know we are the same…….we’re all poets, cause deep down inside I know we all just want to be loved.” #Truth.
The very next track brings the mood down from high intensity to cool grooving in “St. Tropez.” The low tempo collection of drums, violins, a saxophone and the dreamy lulls of the chorus can teleport you right to the beach. Now only if it could literally do that, it would be the dopest song EVER. “Role Models” has such a HOT beat. “Don’t save her. She don’t to be saved. Don’t save her. She don’t want to be saved” – Damn, this song really has me going. It speaks a depth of truth about some (not all) women in our society who are just “lost.” And of course “Apparently,” his hit single from this album, is one of my favorite tracks to listen to right now. His realization about the integral people in his life, including the one who carried him for nine months, is both refreshing and uplifting to listen to.
I could literally write about every song on this album, but I will stop here. Forest Hills Drive is an astounding package of the exemplary electrical impulses going on in that pink mush of his. It makes you dive into the deep waters of adolescence, surviving in the game, gratification for loved ones and self awareness. It’s a true testament to what conscious music is all about.