By Luis De La Torre & Grethel Muralles
J. Cole’s newest album “KOD,” which was produced in a two week span, turns serious as it discusses the issue of poor mental health and how it can lead to excessive drug usage among adolescents, especially people of color due to systemic poverty within society.
“Will someone please turn off my mind, My thoughts are racing all the time, There is no reason or no rhyme, I’m trapped inside myself,” J. Cole raps on the “Intro” track. Cole establishes his own insecurities in his lyrics and opens up to the listener about the pain he feels at the very start of the album so that they can understand the message he wants to deliver. The instrumental jazz beat is reminiscent of a classic 1960’s record which emphasizes the sad tone.
The next song, “KOD,” showcases his talent as a rapper with various delivery styles, as he raps about the success he has gained despite his difficulties. With the use of trap drums, J. Cole tends to resort to quick triplet flows to relay his message to a younger generation’s taste in music.
Building off of this, on “ATM,” he reflects on his constant search for money throughout his life and how pointless it all really was. His quick-cut music video paired with cartoon like cinematography does the song justice. In it , he shows how people are infatuated with wealth and obsess over those who have it. In the end, they aspire to live lavish lifestyles but end up spending money on things they don’t need.
In “The Cut Off” J. Cole transitions to a mellow R&B tone, while using a traditional slow boom-bap beat with piano keys. With the lyrics, “I had to cut some people off ‘cause they was using me/ My heart is big, I want to give too much,” J. Cole speaks about eliminating toxic friendships in which the “friend” only contacts him when he needs something from him. This track speaks to his overall message about how others can add negativity to your life and even fuel mental health issues.
Throughout the album the only artist featured is kiLL edward, which may not be considered a feature at all. Some of his verses are simply Cole’s vocals but slowed down, which can be shown as a metaphorical conflict between himself and the other side of him portrayed as edward.
J. Cole touches on what has caused him so much grief in his life with “Once An Addict.” J. Cole shares the problem with his mother being an alcoholic leading to his drug abuse dangerous living.
In the song “Friends,” J. Cole shares the experience of his friends and himself dealing with depression and turning towards drugs to cope. He goes on to call out not just friends, but his fans as well, those who may be struggling with depression and addiction.
With the outro “Window Pain,” J. Cole begins the song with a narrative that creates a tone similar to an apology letter to those who surround him. It becomes a reflection about his childhood and the things he’s seen that have made him the man he is now.
Overall in “KOD,” J. Cole address the taboos of drug abuse, gun violence, depression, and toxic relationships. All of which are topics that many artists prefer not to speak about, but simultaneously create the phenomenon around J. Cole’s music.