At the time of this writing, 4 Your Eyez Only will already reach a week in age. Between it’s release, Dec. 9th and today (Dec. 16th), there have been a compilation of first impression fan reactions plus some big brand professional reviews. Unfortunately, and just my opinion, fan reviews quite too often only give surface level insight to albums that deserve shovels digging through its soil unearthing precious gems.
However, this write-up is not another album review. For now I’ll leave that up to the mainstream critics who are exchanging their slow cooker writings for microwavable reviews. I am writing to build a case for Jermaine Cole’s recent release. Opinions worth two cents and more have been mixed about the album; die hard fans are in an uproar about the comments pouring in from the emotionally detached while the emotionally detached is responding in irritation from the bias of die hard fans.
From my observation, what’s going on in the land of hip-hop is an ear conditioning. As younger artist continue flooding the airwaves with immediate gratification fueled music, music will continue to be over saturated. Streaming, if you’re using services such as Apple Music and Spotify, allow direct access to the consumer and better profit margins. Subscribers in turn can easily see new releases from their favorite artist.
Ironically, if a record label is doing big promotions for one artist or Apple decides to do a premier, other releases will go unnoticed. I opened up my Apple Music app to discover that Gucci Mane’s “The Return of East Atlanta Santa” dominates the “just added” category with no mention of Kid Cudi’s “Passion, Pain, and Demon Slaying” in sight.
From the English rubbish floating around, it is hard to measure the quality of a review–whose “professional opinion” can you trust as a recommendation? Music is subjective; meaning that it can mean different things to anyone. Yeah, we get that. The word takes up a vast space in music. But why is there very little room for objectivity to occupy?
In rap/hip-hop, there are two scales people can use to rate a rap album: lyrical content and emotional connection.
Using these tools, a listener can gauge an album’s longevity despite a flooded market with deceived pedestrians who become overly ambitious to be rapper themselves. And I’m not talking longevity in terms of how long an album will rotate in your car or smart phone…no. This type of longevity is a matter of heart.
Upon first listen, the album doesn’t and probably won’t WOW many people.
When the music begins to subtly find it’s way into a person’s consciousness, influencing your very philosophy and ideologies, an emotional connection begins to evolve. After the affection of one, it will consume a collective, then the music begins a transcendence into something powerful. This power will move people causing them to take action in different forms.
4 Your Eyez Only strives to exercise this power through awareness from a narrative. Upon first listen, the album doesn’t and probably won’t WOW many people. And why is that? It may possibly be because our ears have been conditioned from the house that Future and Drake built together. Inside, Lil’ Oompa Loompas live to manufacture diluted, replicated sounds. Have we become so cottled by hearing harmonized counterfeits we accept it as quality music? Is good lyricism a thing of the past; a relic only 80’s babies are keeping alive?
As an English major, my ear is trained to listen for key bar elements in a rap record: metaphors, references, double entendres, similes, personification, historical acknowledgement, accuracy, complexity of word usage, and simplicity of message delivery. There are more, but these are the core in what jazzes me about the words on wax.
4 Your Eyez Only: What’s in a Title?
The title of the album may thematically illustrate the story (fiction or nah) of a friend writing a pre-posthumous love letter to his daughter, but I theorize it serves a different vision: as a massive invitation. I believe two types of fans are welcomed: those who are willing to devolve their expectations of another 2014 Forest Hills Drive experience, and newcomers who do not know Cole one bit. The title is not merely exclusive but inclusive as well.
Where clever wordplay, brashness, and lyrical over-confidence abounded on prior projects, he condenses and refocuses these traits to aid in transparency and sincere personal expression. This trade off is a thesis I’m making to support a reason why “False Prophets” and “Everybody Dies” didn’t make the album–they don’t serve the overall story.
An hip-hop album that speaks and continues to speak to recurring climatic issues will be championed as timeless pieces of hip-hop artistry. It’s the same as to why Tupac’s albums are continually mentioned through the lips of rap nerds today. Their catalog will be referenced and taught to a younger generation who didn’t know them when they’re physical presence graced us.
J. Cole is not Tupac. 4 Your Eyez Only is not All Eyez on Me or Makaveli with it’s ten songs.
But J. Cole is transitioning (akin to an Andre Benjamin shift sonically) to represent something that’s more than music. This album will receive it’s truthful recognition once his transition is complete. Despite the petty critiques of monotone instrumentation on the album, it’s essence will truly shine capturing the hearts of those who desire to make a biggie out of life and death.