Johana Vazquez Staff Writer
Are you really listening to J. Cole’s new album, “KOD”, or are you just vibing to it? Two years after “For Your Eyez Only” J. Cole announced his return to the spotlight on Twitter with “KOD” on April 16. J. Cole is one of today’s best lyrical rappers. He is known for going platinum on his past two albums with no featured artist, and I think “KOD” will be no exception to this.
He gave his fans four days to freak out and grasp the reality of this new album before releasing it on April 20, but do not be fooled by this release date. Just because you hear him rapping about Xanax, drinking, smoking, dope, and pills does not mean he is condoning these things. In fact, he is doing the exact opposite which is why releasing the album on 4/20 was pretty clever. According to Cole, “KOD” has three different meanings: Kids On Drugs, King Overdosed, and Kill Our Demons. They are all somehow interconnected. Kids refers to the young “Soundcloud” rappers of today who are constantly on drugs and rapping about drugs and guns. kiLL Edward, or King Edward, is J. Cole’s alter ego who tries to convince Cole throughout the album to give into the same life of highs and addictions. J. Cole is determined to kill these demons, or kiLL Edward. He promotes a healthier lifestyle.
“Life can bring much pain. There are many ways to deal with this pain. Choose wisely.” These lines are repeated three times in the album and resonate with the overarching theme of addressing one’s pain and problems instead of looking for ways to avoid them. Drug addiction is not the only social issue he addresses. “KOD” is packed with powerful, overlaying messages. In “Photograph,” Cole addresses modern, digital-age love and how easily we fall in love with the picture of someone without really knowing them. “ATM” zones in on money; we can’t take it with us when we die yet we value it above all else. Greed can lead to a fast, empty life. “Kevin’s Heart” is about Kevin Hart (catch the play-on word?) and his recent cheating scandal. It is sung from his perspective and reveals the struggle of man staying loyal to his wife. “BRACKETS” is a diss on the taxing system. Cole gives so much into the system, and he has no control of where his money goes. Instead, white congressmen he’s never met dictate what do with his money. The interlude “Once an Addict” opens up a personal scar as it is a song about his drug addicted mother. He wishes he could have done more to help her with her inner demons. “Window Pain” is reminiscent of “4 Your Eyes Only” with its message of gun violence in urban communities and its effect on the most innocent, children.
The album broke records as being the most streamed on its release day, surpassing Drake’s “Views” on Apple Music with 65 million streams (The Verge). While the album may not be as “banging” as some wish it would be, “KOD” serves a purpose. It’s time to focus less on what sounds good, and focus more on what is good. J. Cole fully embodies the title of an artist. His slower songs beat resoundingly with simplicity. His words twist and flow into stories. He shows us with the faster paced, trap-inspired songs like “ATM” and “KOD” that rap can make a bold statement and still be lit. J. Cole uses his rapping skills and platform to make an impact which is exactly what he asks of young rappers in “1985,” “But have you ever thought about your impact?” J. Cole delivers insightful and profound messages in the most striking way possible with “KOD”. To fully understand the meaning behind a song and really listen to what J. Cole is saying, I would suggest checking it out on genius.com where most of the annotations are verified by J. Cole. Listen and choose wisely!