It’s here. Check after the cut for my full review on Cole World: The Sideline Story.

Stepping off of the Sidelines & Into the Cole World…

Supporters all over the world rejoice, the comeback kid J. Cole took the phrase he could only wish was a reality and made it happen against all odds. For those who don’t know, years ago Jermaine Lamarr Cole wasn’t much more than a kid from Fayetteville, North Carolina. With literally a dollar and a dream, he left his home town (or where he was raised at least) to New York City, studying at St. John’s University in Queens. He learned to sharpen his skills with time and after two excellent mixtapes (The Come Up and more known, The Warm Up), Cole was the first artist to be signed to Jay-Z’s label, Roc Nation. Even though he was fresh off of a verse on Shawn Carter’s The Blueprint III, From there it seemed like the man couldn’t catch a break.


There were whispers of him being dropped from the label after months of the album being pushed back, as well as visual leaks and album cuts being released to the public that left Cole’s fans worried. Some went ahead and wrote him off, claiming that he would never release an album under Roc Nation but one thing that Mr. Dollar & a Dream had without a doubt was a strong, powerful, self-produced sound that most could say without hesitation, is a step away from whatever you hear on the radio in this day and age. 


Time went on and Cole felt it was time to crash his website once again, releasing a damn near album quality mixtape that went by the name of Friday Night Lights. The project, comprised of tracks Cole felt wouldn’t make it to his final project, set the net on fire and proved that regardless of the rumors, as long as Cole remained true to himself and his sound, he would have the support of his fans, whom he calls the Dreamvillians. Now, almost a full year after FNL (Which was released November 12th of 2010) and many tracks later that didn’t land the way he’d hoped (Who Dat, Disgusting… Hell, even Mr. Nice Watch wasn’t received with the praise I’m sure he was hoping for) we arrive at September 27th, a day where we really learn if the support is genuine. Anyone can download something for free, but in 2011 paying for a project shows true support beyond anything (I mean, look at Tha Carter IV… If that’s not true fan support I don’t know what is) and Cole, just like any other artist, is nothing without the fans. So the question that lurks is, did J. Cole put together a project above his past three? 


…And when my story’s told, let it be known I’d never fold…


Ain’t it the truth Cole. A short minute and 20 seconds surrounding him and his team reminiscing over his tale, how he came to be where he is now, being heard across the world. Small talk, a few bars, and a piano intro that has now become a signature of Cole’s. The difference between this one and the others? Triumph can be felt.


Watch a pawn become a King…


Dollar & a Dream’s 3rd Installment carries that triumphant feel over as Cole spits some of his best verses. A damn near perfect mix of truth and metaphors, honesty and similes. The beat, provided by Cole himself (along with 90% of tracks on the project) is far from flashy, but nonetheless leaves him with a wide canvas for him to paint his picture. It’s just as aggressive as it is real, and that’s been one of Cole’s greatest abilities thus far.


Yo Homegirl said he a bad boy, but I’m signed to the Roc, no time for the gossip, bitch put down them tabloids…


“Can’t Get Enough” is a quick switch up as Cole jumps into a zone where he completely shatters the rule “Don’t kiss and tell” and discusses what he deals with when it comes to the ladies. The unique beat, produced by Brian Kidd definitely gave Cole a fitting pocket to do what he does best while Trey Songz glides over the hook, doing less singing but somehow still complimenting the track as a whole. The team works well, and it was clear here.


Don’t even know the rules but yet y’all trying to play the game…


It’s usually frowned upon when an artist takes a track they have included on a previous project and continues to use it on another but in certain cases it can be excused and this is no different. One of Cole’s greatest tracks he’s ever created, the powerful, slightly somber “Lights Please” shows his greatest talent at work, his storytelling in his lyricism. Although in a way that can also come to haunt him (we’ll get into that later) here it definitely comes through as he delivers 3 classic verses, all surrounding around his ability to talk about his goals, dreams and observations but it all being put on hold for now, something Cole is too familiar with. A classic track in Cole’s discography without a doubt.


I’m in there, spending the night in jail realizing like, these niggas have no clue… 


The interlude continues from his into, telling the story of the night he realized he was going to finally be able to sign the dotted line. Which leads perfectly into…


I wish somebody made guidelines, on how to get up off the sidelines…


Cole fades in and out of his story telling here as he continues to deliver his honesty over one of the tracks named after the title of the entire project. “I got the key to the game, they tryna lock me out” he spits, also touching on the topic of why Hov never speaks about him openly, something a few wonder. He clearly dismisses the questions and statements while fully confident in his talent, specifically focusing on how he could be taken more seriously. Something that I’m sure many can relate to in different situations.


What cha say, Cole ain’t hot, what!? Where you read that shit!?


Cole gets reckless on this one, allowing himself to stunt for a bit, comparing himself to what he was back in the day while talking about how serious he is about making history now. A hook that clearly explains that you have to enjoy the moment and take it for what it is, shows why Cole might have made some mistakes on the way to releasing his project, but he made it to this point regardless. Here we get the verse everyone was waiting for as well. Carter has made it pretty clear without saying it that he doesn’t want Cole riding off of the cosign, as they do the most talking when they are in each other’s tracks and here Jay proudly acknowledges his confidence in his protege, while at the same time describing to sharp ears how he’s way above the rest by doing what he did to the Maybach (turning it into the Maybach Mobile) in The Throne’s rap powerhouse track known as “Otis”. The track is also a very far step from what Cole usually provides on a beat, which makes me very excited for the beats he will create in the future.


How that feel? Very Happy!


As we come off of the high of Hov finally giving Cole his verse, we get a crazier beat that surprised me to be the title track. The bottom line for this track was obvious, here Cole definitely tries a few experiments. Between the Ross-like adlibs (woo!) the energized beat that sounds unlike his usual nostalgic but fresh formula. The flows and delivery was slightly risky as well, unlike a usual delivery but still immediately catchy. The lyricism was without question, like the rest of his work, on point. He’s making it clear here that he can step outside of what he calls home and still make it work… well.


Baby you Summertime fine…


For the ladies. That’s the only reason I could possibly see him putting “In The Morning” on the project. I like the track itself, but in terms of the album it wasn’t needed. It received radio play and the Drake feature on the album does look better but nonetheless, the project could’ve done without it. Not to mention the world still awaits the J. Cole vs Drake lyrical battle we hope we’ll get one day. Who knows.


I ain’t too proud to tell ya that I cry sometimes, cry sometimes about it…


Cole said early on once the title was announced that more than his story would be told on his debut project and this is a clear example. “Lost Ones” has Cole switching between a woman and a man on his first two verses, delivering amazing dialogue between the two then finally rapping from a 3rd person perspective, watching the entire situation unfold. It’s a moving track, but after enough listens it did make me wonder why this was placed here instead of another track that would focus on him. Surely, he had more to say… Right?


Death over Dishonor, they killin niggas for J’s, thats Death over Designer..


Arguably one of Cole’s top 5 tracks he’s ever made, oddly enough features a recently M.I.A Missy Elliot. She takes good care of the track with her tone and proves she hasn’t lost shit at all, while Cole reflects. It carries a old school (90’s) feel but at the same time is fresh and welcoming. Side note: You can look for this to be the next single off of the project.


I never told…


Here we get another track where Cole tells the stories of other personalities, switching between different characters between verses. The track is on point here, ruthless in terms of the reality of the situations. It’s gripping and that’s really what an artist hopes for when he or she makes a track that is meant to relate to others.


In between eating the apple jacks, hes writing some SHIT. I’m gonna find him though, and I’m gonna sign him. I don’t want no problems.


Mannnnn Listen, Cole comes out swinging on this one and that’s easy to tell right from the Jay sample he took in the beginning. Lyrical fire left and right here over a typical Cole beat but obviously polished to be one of his best. Fully aware of himself and his album, I see the effort to make it the very best it could be, and between the relentless bars and the soulful yet hard beat, this is one of those tracks that show you exactly what kind of artist Cole is. 


No I don’t know where I’m going but I’m going now, you coming with me…?


God’s Gift is slightly less of an attention grabber in terms of it’s beat. It’s one of those that allows all the room in the world for lyrical homicide, which Cole confidently does justice. Interestingly enough, this was the track that Jigga turned down originally.


Don’t Break Down…


Another tale from another perspective, but damn when I think I’ve heard these tracks enough not to be captured by the man’s storytelling, I end up feeling some kind of way when the sounds coincide with Cole’s tone and delivery. The man’s a master at telling stories, and he knows it. Throughout all three verses he continues telling the stories of those who have their own issues, carrying you through emotions if you listen carefully enough. It’s a great result.


I feel the lows, like that’s all I know…


One thing I did in the beginning was mention that Cole had a lot against him. Like album cuts being leaked. For example, “Cheer Up” along with others (Lost Ones and more) leaked way ahead of time. I mention this here because at this point, I grow tired of hearing everyone else’s stories. Maybe it was because I heard this so early, maybe it’s grown old by now. Don’t get me wrong here, this is a solid track, not unlike the other in terms of him spitting another 3 verses of stories from those who struggle, but Cole this is YOUR project, more from you on what it took to get here, less from everyone else. 


I try, You try, We try…


A soulful record that surrounds the ugly in relationships ending. Decent in terms of the beat, the hook (done by a woman I’m unfamiliar with) provides a nice balance to Cole’s explanation and helps the visualization. Far from one of the standout tracks on the project.


Straight up, now tell me, do you really wanna Love me forever?


Cole’s lead single on the album comes second to last as we’re well into the bonus cuts and it’s interesting that this was his decision as he definitely has other potential tracks to represent him, especially as the lead single. Nonetheless the Kanye West, Paula Abdul influenced track is a favorite, highly catchy and without the pressure of the title “lead single” over it, is highly enjoyable. Check the video if you haven’t yet right here.


She thinks she’s ready for the world…


An odd choice to end the album, but one of the better tracks once again telling a story like only Cole can. This one however, is more solid and structured than the other stories we’ve heard from him. Does that stop me from my feeling of wanting more Cole related lyricism? Sadly not.


I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again… we all want Cole to WIN. We want him to succeed and most know he’s capable of being the best. Blogs didn’t post leaks, we didn’t post unauthorized videos (well known blogs didn’t, at least) and in the end we did the very best we could all do so all he had to do was put out a project that was at least just as good, but hopefully better than the three before it. That said, Cole is easy to relate to, especially with his ability to write in the perspective of whoever he chooses. That’s what makes us appreciate him so much in the first place but, I felt there was too much of him trying to give us what he might’ve thought we wanted. 


Yes, we all appreciate your ability to tell a story Cole, but around the end I feel like there was a definite lack of  Cole’s own story in the long journey to releasing the project. I would’ve preferred a track to end it where he reflected on all of the effort it took to get him where he is now and his satisfaction with it, or even whats to come. Maybe you say he did that in other tracks, well in that case the flow of the project could’ve been better. That said, there’s not much wrong with this at all. I keep in mind that it IS his debut album and if this is what we can expect from Cole in the future… I’m looking forward to it. Now lets hope the Dreamvillians are out supporting because if Cole can improve from here, It’ll definitely be a Cole World.


Timeless Tracks: Sideline Story, Mr. Nice Watch, Rise & Shine, God’s Gift

Overall: 8.5/10

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