The Score: J.Cole, "Cole World: The Sideline Story"

Tuesday, Sep 27, 2011 10:07AM

Written by J. Bachelor

Buy Now
  • Cole World: The Sideline Story
  • J. Cole
  • September 27, 2011
DJ Booth 3.5/5
Hip Hop DX 4.5/5
Blare Magazine 3.5/5
Planet Ill 4.5/5
Entertainment Weekly 8.5/10

The wait is over. Young Simba finally gets a chance to shine as the highly anticipated debut from Roc Nation MC J. Cole arrives in stores today.

With Cole World: A Sideline Story, the North Carolina spitter weaves a complex tale of patience, passion and persistance.

A cosign from Jay-Z doesn't mean what it used to. There have definitely been protégés worse off than J. Cole, but in Roc-A-Fella's heyday, artists like Beanie Sigel and Freeway were dropping Gold and Platinum-certified albums straight out the gate (based on their own talent and the reputation of their team). Despite a trio of solid mixtapes, a few magazine covers, and showstealing guest appearances alongside the likes of Black Star and Jay, Cole has still spent much of the last few years since his Roc Nation signing on the sidelines, relative to other rap newcomers. With his debut album Cole World: The Sideline Story, the North Carolina upstart and high school basketball player laces his J's to share his come-up and show why he deserves a starting position.(Hip Hop DX)

Aside from the well-publicized cameo's from Jay-Z and Drake, Cole has R&B singer Trey Songz and the elusive Missy Elliott on deck for his debut.

Singer turnt wannabe rapper Trey Songz brings his sex talk on "Can't Get Enough" over a tribal infused rhythm. Missy Elliott returns from milk carton exile on "Nobody's Perfect," a seriously dope tracks featuring those famous double drums from her golden era and a sharp performance on the hook and verse. Cole's performance is ill, particularly on the first stanza over the unbalanced beats.(Planet Ill)

Production for Cole World was handled primarily by its star, who crafted many of the beats he set fire to in the studio.

More than three-quarters of the full-length features J. Cole at the helm, letting Brazilian rhythms act as the essence to impassioned rants ("God's Gift") and recreating 90s' slow jams that accent both Drake and Missy Elliot ("In The Morning", "Nobody's Perfect") and turn whims like "A flower, you are powerful, you do something to me" into sensual adolescent poetry. But there is something The Sideline Story doesn't fulfill: it's deprived of that raw impudence that composed Cole's independent mixes and makes older album cuts - like "Lights Please" - chime with his attitude. In these instances, the rapper makes no mistake at leaving an impression, one that burns with simplicity but becomes your new-found addiction due to the fury being hurled at you while you dive into his driven, stripped-down conscious.(Blare Magazine>

Earlier this month, Cole explained why the creative process for his "Work Out" single didn't require much work at all.

It's not too much story behind that track "Work Out" man. I was in a hotel room when I heard the sample ... and from there, I made the beat and came up with the hook in the hotel room. Got back to New York and recorded it. The Paula Abdul part came to me when I was in the studio ... I kinda just instantly laid it one there. There really wasn't too much thought. It sounded like summertime. It sounded like fun. Know what I'm sayin'?"(SOHH)

While A Sideline Story scores high with its introspective lyricism and production, some critics still view Young Simba unfit for the role as rap's next King.

So while there may be one pleasantly surprised Nat King Cole fan who he accidentally download Cole World on iTunes (it is right next to The World of King Cole), the rest of us will inevitably listen to this album with "rap's next great hope" expectations. Placing those expectations on Jermaine Lamarr Cole may be setting the bar impossibly high, but from Lebron to Kanye to Obama, that's what the greats do - exceed impossible expectations. That means J. Cole is not yet a great artist, the operative word being yet. This album is a beginning, not an end, and in time Cole may become the timeless artist so many hope for, but only if he truly fights to develop his own sound, independent of the literally thousands of execs, fans and sideline critics telling him how he should sound. (DJ Booth)
Bigger names in hip-hop have released albums this year, but few trump this debut. Cole, who's been studying under label head Jay-Z for two years, seems to have learned plenty. Cole World: The Sideline Story is a well-rounded effort, and deeper than most, offering cuts that tackle unplanned pregnancy (''Lost Ones'') and uncertain love (''Nobody's Perfect''). ''It's your time,'' Jay skillfully says to him on the gaudy, dubstep-tinged ''Mr. Nice Watch.'' Cole's making the best of it.(Entertainment Weekly)

To purchase J. Cole's debut, just click here.

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