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One Album, Three Meanings
KOD is another exhibit of J. Cole’s greatness
On April 20, J. Cole released his fifth album, “KOD,” which broke Apple Music’s record for streams in the first 24 hours in the U.S. with 64.5 million streams, according to The Verge.
“KOD” has three meanings according to Cole, who tweeted before the album was released, “KOD. 3 meanings. Kids on Drugs, King Overdosed, Kill Our Demons. The rest of the album I leave to your interpretation.”
While it is virtually impossible for Cole to top his album “2014 Forest Hills Drive,” which went double platinum without a feature, KOD is centered around the topics of drug abuse, addiction and depression.
Cole’s past two albums, (“2014 Forest Hills Drive” and “4 Your Eyez Only”) were solo projects, “KOD” has two features from an unknown artist “kiLL edward,” who is rumored to be Cole’s “alter ego,” according to Billboard.
Billboard found that if you take kiLL edward’s song, “Tidal Wave (Just a Reference),” and speed it up, it sounds exactly like Cole himself.
The cover art for “KOD” depicts Cole wearing a crown and a robe, which is opened to show children doing an array of drugs and handling drug paraphernalia. However, the cover also displays the sentence, “This album is in no way intended to glorify addiction.”
The first track, “Intro,” is just one minute 47 seconds long, and has a woman’s voice melodically saying, “Life can bring much pain. There are many ways to deal with this pain. Choose wisely/In which all of my demons rest. I’m calling out for help.” It creates a somewhat unsettling or eerie vibe to start the album.
Cole follows up with the song “KOD,” a much more upbeat track, and displays the flow and lyrical ability that is vintage Cole. He calls out his critics who believe he should feature other artists saying, “How come you won’t get a few features? I think you should? How ’bout I don’t?”
The features of kiLL edward in the songs “The Cut Off” and “FRIENDS” are just another dig at those critics since Cole is just featuring himself.
“The Cut Off” talks about Cole’s frustration with disloyalty and people using him for his money. In the first verse, Cole says, “I had to cut some people off ’cause they was using me. My heart is big, I want to give too much and usually. I send the bread and don’t hear back for like two months now. You hit my phone, you need a loan, oh I’m a crutch now.”
In this song, kiLL edward takes the chorus which emphasizes addiction referencing various ways to escape and stating, “Bottom line, I can’t cope. If I die, I don’t know.”
“Photograph” is a straight vibe. Both the beat and the chorus are mellow, as Cole raps about love, saying how it has, “gone digital.” It is extremely relatable to how much social media influences relationships nowadays.
The song “ATM” may be the most catchy, as the chorus of “Count it up, count it up, count it up, count it,” immediately gets stuck in your head, but it also one of the most eye-opening on falling in love with money and materialistic things. Cole emphasizes that point that with money you, “can’t take it when you die, but you can’t live without it.”
“ATM” also is the first song that returns to the message established in “Intro” of choose wisely, which seems to be Cole’s warning throughout the album as to how one should deal with life struggles.
“Kevin’s Heart” also emphasizes the “choose wisely” concept as it discusses the temptations and struggles of maintaining faithfulness in relationships. The music video for “Kevin’s Heart” features comedian and actor Kevin Hart, who was caught in a major cheating scandal this past year.
Cole’s eighth song “BRACKETS” dives into his frustration with not seeing his tax dollars benefitting kids in underprivileged neighborhoods. The song is another example of Cole’s unreal lyrical ability as it attacks the lack of teaching on African American culture and begs the question if we will ever see another African American president.
Cole digs deeper in “Once an Addict” detailing his mother’s battle with addiction and the relationship that he had with her. These songs that show more into his personal life struggle help emphasize the theme of the album in addiction. Again, the line, “Life can bring much pain. There are many ways to deal with this pain. Choose wisely,” closes a song, hammering home Cole’s warning.
“FRIENDS,” the other song that features kiLL edward, serves as Cole’s message to his friends telling them to “meditate, not medicate.” He uses the song as a way to reach out to his friends whose lives are using drugs to deal with their problems saying, “I understand this message is not the coolest to say. But if you down to try it I know of a better way.”
The album ends with an outro, “Window Pain” and another intro, “1985-Intro to ‘The Fall Off.’” In “Window Pain,” Cole starts the song with a young girl telling the story of her cousin being shot. He then goes on to explain what he wants in life, and reflects on his success and how grateful he is for it compared to the lives that some of his friends and the little girl have had. He concludes the song with the girl’s answer to the question, “Why do bad things happen?”
“1985-Intro to ‘The Fall Off’” serves as Cole’s response to new young rappers such as Lil Pump. Lil Pump had released a diss track titled “Fuck J. Cole” prior to the release of KOD and then went on to thank Cole for “all the clout” after he dissed him in “1985-Intro to ‘The Fall Off.’”
The song is about Cole explaining how he was like the current age of young rappers when he first achieved fame, but warns them that, “It’s a faster route to the bottom,” if they aren’t careful.
Everything that Cole releases will always be compared to “2014 Forest Hills Drive,” so “KOD” takes more than one listen to truly appreciate the message that Cole is looking to convey. But, he uses his own life to tackle addiction and explain that there are better ways to deal with pain than to turn to drugs.
The depth of his lyrics and ability to go after real issues is what makes him great.