This evening, J. Cole will unveil his fifth studio album, KOD, his first since the December 2016 release of the Platinum-certified 4 Your Eyez Only. Just like last time, the album announcement came as a surprise to fans, with no singles being released prior to lift-off.
To help tide over anxious fans, we touched base with a few of our industry friends to answer the most burning questions surrounding Cole and his latest opus.
Let's meet our panel (in alpha order): Beezy430 (Dead End Hip-Hop), Brian "B.Dot" Miller (Rap Radar), Eddie "Bansky" Gonzalez (DJBooth, REVOLT, The Undefeated), Justin Tinsley (The Undefeated) and Rory Farrell (Joe Budden Podcast).
It's been 15 months since J. Cole's last album. Will the break help or hurt his chances of going double Platinum with no features once again?
J. Cole’s fan base is loyal so they’ll support him no matter how much time he takes off. But at this point in his career, I don’t think he cares about streams or sales. He just wants his message to resonate. —Brian "B.Dot" Miller, Rap Radar
If 4 Your Eyez Only was Cole’s most mature, grown-up album to date, would you like to see KOD continue that trend or find him settling back into more “fun” material?
Cole’s one of those guys who’s hard to get a gauge on because outside of music there’s really no way to know what’s going on in his life. In one way, that’s great—especially given the era we live in where everything is documented. It allows him to maintain this veil of anonymity that’s an invaluable form of cultural currency. On the other, it makes him completely impossible to diagnose from project to project. But to answer the question, and if I can speak from a strictly personal perspective, I don’t need Cole to make “fun” music. If it happens, then great. His best material has always been the emotional, every-man introspection and holding society accountable for the world he’s forced to narrate. Judging from the cover and rumored titles for what KOD stands for, I doubt it’s going to be a “fun” listen. But what I do need it to be is a necessary one. —Justin Tinsley, The Undefeated
The KOD cover indicates J. Cole will be tackling substance abuse on the album. Can he avoid sounding like Russ, who has been harshly criticized for doing the same thing?
Of course, he can. It's funny that I’ve heard people think they sound similar but I think they sound nothing alike. Plus, with a subject like substance abuse, I can hear Cole rapping or sounding way more passionate than Russ. —Beezy430, DEHH
Why do you think J. Cole receives so much "hate" on Twitter?
There are a few reasons, the biggest being that Cole's career and the popularity of Twitter began around the same time. The "cool" crowd on Twitter deemed him "boring" and thus, the narrative began. The same way it's trendy to support an artist on Twitter, it's 10 times more trendy to hate someone. Add that to the first "J. Cole makes music to nap to" tweet doing numbers, and you have a timeline full of people trying to make the same recycled jokes for a couple RT's a possibility their Twitter dad takes notice. The other reason has nothing to do with Cole, but rather his fans, who can be a bit...obsessive. With that said, even with all the hate he receives, Cole's numbers have always proven that the world is much bigger than your Twitter timeline. —Rory Farrell, Joe Budden Podcast
Has J. Cole released a "classic" album?
The short answer is no, but the long answer is much more complicated. Ask any die-hard J. Cole fan and the answer is yes; Cole has a classic, several even. But that's because he strikes such a cord with his core fan base that all of the music is impactful to them and in their lives. His music and his messages resonate with his audience, hitting them in that special place that converts them into lifelong supporters. However, as far as the actual artistry is concerned, Cole often leaves something to be desired. On 2014 Forest Hills Drive, he was endearing, but there still were weak spots that kept the album from perfection. Before that, Born Sinner signaled true artistic growth, but never felt transcendent. And to many ears, even if it was an ambitious body of work, 4 Your Eyez Only was a miss. So no, Cole has no classic albums, but if this discussion bleeds into his mixtape catalog, I could make a few good arguments. —Eddie "Bansky" Gonzalez DJBooth, REVOLT, The Undefeated