J cole just dropped another classic, 4 Your Eyes Only is undeniably gratifying Hip-Hop from start to finish. Cole delivered the much-needed lyrical perspective providing a microscopic look at what it feels/ sounds like to the struggle in black communities. He used his fourth album to highlight universal issues black men face today, no matter how much money he may have. The introduction track For Whom The Bells Tolls set the emotion for the entire album.
The start of the album kicks off with the sound of a set of keys unlocking and opening a door, signifying Cole willingness to allow the listener inside to hear about life through his eyes. The tone of For Whom The Bells Tolls is laced with bells and horns, giving the track a blues tempo, taking the listener on an emotional rollercoaster as Cole raps about contemplating on whether he should live or die.
But what do you do when there’s no place to turn?
I have no one, I’m lonely, my bridges have burnt down
The bells getting loud, ain’t nowhere to hide
Got nowhere to go, put away my pride
Tired of feeling low even when I’m high
Ain’t no way to live, do I wanna die?
I don’t know, I don’t know
Quickly changing the pace Cole jumps into the next track Immortal narrating the life of a street hustler declaring that no matter what “real niggas don’t die”. Immortal like many of the other songs on the album voices the dangers of trying to make it as a black man. The record notes how black men are often sold dreams to become entertainers or coerced to sell drugs even though Cole acknowledges that “its that sort of thinkin’ that keepin’ niggas chained/ at the bottom and hanged”.
Ville Mentality has a double meaning, from one perspective it expresses the destructive mentality of the people from his Fayetteville hometown. “How long can I survive this mentality?”, Cole questions the trails and tribulations one faces in the age of information. The inclusion of the little girl on the interlude revealed the horrific state of fatherlessness due to violence in urban communities. The track also addresses Coles clouded judgment about his own destiny in the rap game, unsure about whether he should disappear from the game or remain. In an uptempo track, Cole acknowledges that he understand that the only real change comes from inside in his track titled Change. ” I sit in silence and find whenever I meditate/ My fears alleviate, my tears evaporate” Cole reveals how he uses meditation to help him connect with the higher power. Neighbors disclosed no matter how much a person may try to change themselves or their environment they may still face the judgment of outsiders. “Okay, the neighbors think I’m selling Dope “, J Cole used the track to illustrate the racist society he can’t seem to escape no matter his current status.
Some things you can’t escape
Death, taxes, NRA
It’s this society that make
Every nigga feel like a candidate
For a Trayvon kinda fate
Even when your crib sit on a lake
Even when your plaques hang on a wall
Even when the president jam your tape
Took a little break just to annotate
How I feel, damn it’s late
I can’t sleep ’cause I’m paranoid
Black in a white man territory
Cops bust in with the army guns
No evidence of the harm we done
Just a couple neighbors that assume we slang
Only time they see us we be on the news in chains, damn
Overall, J Cole delivered quality on this album, just the lyrical arrangement alone is enough to indulge in a listen. Cole’s 4 Your Eyes Only is the male version of Solange’s A Seat At The Table, a great body of political artwork. Cole does exceptional storytelling on each of his songs from the album’s debut titled track dedicated to his daughter, to his love song Deja Ve. If you haven’t heard the album yet now is the time to hear about life growing up in the ghetto from an artistic storytellers perspective.