ARTS AND LIVING

J. Cole Creates Strong Work on “KOD” But Sways From Message


By Sirig Gurung ’21, Contributing Writer | Sep. 17, 2018 | 147-25

When J. Cole announced the release of “KOD” on April 20, fans were excited for two now-coinciding events: J. Cole dropping what could be the biggest album of 2018 and the weed-lover’s holiday both of which occurred on the same date.
According to J. Cole “KOD” at once stands for Kids On Drugs, King Overdosed and Kill Our Demons, with all three acronyms alluding to the drug-fueled music that pervades the mumble rap industry today.


The album runs for 42 minutes and contains 12 songs, most of which have garnered positive acclaim due to poignant lyrics that aim to start a discussion on the issue of drug use in the rap industry. While the lyrics have been a hit, critics feel that the beats of the tracks themselves fail to have any kind of kick to them. The lack of an intricate, bass-filled beat detracts from the album’s ability to reach the majority of today’s rap audience.


That said, I feel that because of the overarching theme of self-awareness and improvement, Cole’s attempt to make sure that his lyrics contain his pertinent message is the star of the album. Sadly, doing so raises a classic Catch-22: by excluding the head-bumping, rap-mumbling audience from his listener base, Cole isn’t really reaching out to the people who would appreciate the album most. It appears to me that Cole has the right ideas to disseminate but is not making the right kind of listener reflect on the themes he raps about.


Parts of the album are also more disjointed than what the trailer had led me to believe, which is a problem that has plagued Cole’s albums in the past.


Both “BRACKETS,” a complaint about paying taxes to fuel systematically discriminatory programs such as education, and “Kevin’s Heart,” a song on comedian Kevin Hart’s cheating scandal, do well in terms of production and lyrics but do not strongly relate to the overarching theme of drug-use. They are rather arbitrary concepts to rap about and make the album thematically inconsistent.


Though the bureaucratic process of filing taxes to fuel an economy still propped up by discrimination and racism is a theme as worthy of a good lamentation as any other, in an album whose title clearly relates to drug use and a move away from such a culture, it is simply is a digression from the larger point.


I do not wish to give the wrong idea — some of J. Cole’s tracks are great. “KOD” and “Once an Addict” are strong examples of songs that make audiences sit down and reflect on the path the industry is taking. But by inserting dissonant themes and not being able to reel in the audience that requires such reflection the most, “KOD” opens up the room for its own trivialization. Regardless, when everything is said and done, I am just relieved to hear some new music on the radio after listening to “God’s Plan” 1,000 times.