Bite-sized Album Review #3: J. Cole’s ‘KOD’

Despite the fact that I still haven’t received my signed KOD vinyl in the mail, KOD is one of my favorite projects. I think even more than that, KOD spawned a couple really cool videos that I still think about from time to time. Not only was the video for “ATM” amazing, but J. Cole’s interview with Angie Martinez and his conversation with Lil’ Pump were both moments that I felt like the album became more than just a bunch of songs. Coming at a time where “soundcloud rappers” were making room for themselves on rap’s stage and xans and percs were becoming mainstays in rap lyrics, KOD came in as a reminder of the dangers of normalizing drug use and other forms of unhealthy coping. And he did it in a way that gave us a slightly different Cole than the one we are used to receiving, but one that builds off of the ground he already set before him.

Cohesiveness of Sound

I think the first song I listened to from KOD was “ATM,” and that pretty much set the standard for me for the rest of the songs on the album. When I finally got around to listening to the whole thing, I was very impressed. The album doesn’t follow the typical J.Cole formula, so it was nice to hear him rap over some different types of sounds. Altogether, I think the songs create both a sense of familiarity has Cole raps over beats that are similar to those of his younger peers, and a sense of invigoration, hearing what Cole could do experimentally. There are moments towards the back end of the project, though, that sound like songs from his older projects – “FRIENDS” sounds like it could have come straight off of “4 Your Eyez Only.”

Cohesiveness of Story

A lot of the criticism of Cole comes from the perception that folks have of him being too preachy. And while I don’t think KOD strays too far away from Cole’s hope of spreading a message with his music, I think KOD does it in a more refreshing way. Cole flips the types of beats that can be heard in the background of drug-induced lyrics and uses them in songs like “ATM” and Motiv8″ to push for a broader conversation about the ways we feel and cope with pain, especially as it pertains to drug and alcohol use. We get to hear about this angle of coping with pain through unhealthy means from a variety of angles; we’re taken through memories of his mom, his home back in Fayetteville, folks in the music industry, and the folks that are hoping to make their big break in the future. It’s a relatable album that allows the listener the opportunity to reflect on their own modes of dealing with pain; I remember seeing a few posts here and there of people sending Cole messages about how the album helped get to a place where they were ready to beat their addiction. And I think that’s the power of making the message more relatable. We can write ourselves into the stories that Cole tells in ways that allow us to feel more connected to the project. KOD becomes whatever you need it to be when you listen to it, and that meaning could change each time you listen to it.

Vibe Check

There are definitely some bops on this project. “ATM” was an immediate favorite – you can’t resist the “count it up, count it up,” in the hook. I do think it’s very similar to other Cole albums where you can go from bouncing your shoulders and yelling the lyrics at the top of your lungs to experiencing a moment of silence while you actually listen to what he’s saying.

3 songs i dig…

“ATM,” “Kevin’s Heart” and “FRIENDS”

fave bar from the project:

“I balled on the principal
Remember the teachers was all on my ass
Now look all of them, pitiful
And all of a sudden I’m so good at math”

(i mean, how could you resist this!!!)


Overall Review Rating

(listen to KOD on spotify, by clicking on the image below)

Featured Image Credit: https://www.billboard.com/articles/columns/hip-hop/8545883/j-cole-announces-dreamville-festival-2020

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