Jermaine Cole brings a very eye-opening narrative in his unexpected, yet already critically acclaimed album- 4 Your Eyez Only. I say unexpected because prior to the album and his documentary, “Eyez”, it was looking as “Jermaine’s Interlude”– one of the standout tracks on DJ Khaled’s surprisingly underrated album Major Key, –forewarned listeners that it was possibly his last time spitting bars
(along with his performance at the Meadows Music and Art Festival in October. See Link Here!) It came to the point where even some of the most loyal of Cole’s fans were questioning if he was even considering suicide.
Cole’s “4 Your Eyez Only” is the most personal album he has given us with his purest of insecurities, problems and emotions on this 10 track album. Not only are these songs brutally honest and thought-provoking as the previously mentioned Jermaine’s Interlude, but the album gives listeners a sense of a more open Jermaine (it is not like he never was prior to the album, see False Prophets and Everybody Dies.)
From feeling hopeless, suicide, and sorrow to the hopeful upbringing of his daughter and his friend’s daughter. For Whom the Bell Tolls shows the listener a hopeless and lost Cole, one that has “…nowhere to go” and asks a chilling question to the Lord,“But what do you do when there is no place to turn?” Following this song is Immortal, which places the message of what the cliché “American Dream” looks like to the African American population, in particular to African Americans selling drugs to provide. “Now I was barely seventeen with a pocket full of hope/Screamin’, dollar and a dream with my closet looking broke/and my niggas lookin’ clean, getting caught up with that dope.”
Starting with Deja Vu (which is sampled from Bryson Tiller’s Exchange), we start to see a more hopeful Cole, one who is looking for a woman that he seems enthralled with even though “She fuck with small town niggas.” while questioning her endeavor regarding the concept of masculinity. With She’s Mine Pt.1 and She’s Mine Pt.2, we see a jubilant, hopeful, and awakened Cole finally appreciating and finding love not only with his wife (Pt.1), but with his newborn daughter (Pt.2) as well. The hopes and aspirations of having a newborn along with the ability of these two things can truly change one’s agenda for their life, and Cole raps about that in both She’s Mine Pt.1 and She’s Mine Pt.2.
With Change and Neighbors come possibly two of the best songs on the album. One of the more prominent themes mentioned on the album is death and that is probably due to the murder of one of Cole’s closest friends, James McMillan Jr. Change reflects the hopes and development of a black man moving up classes for “life is all about evolution.” The song also reflects in the final verse on violence: with police and also with those in the black community, and how it has led to the death of James. With Neighbors, it brings to light the problems that arise in a nation where the only three things you can not escape from are “…death, taxes, and a racist society…” in which segregation is still alive.
The final track- 4 Your Eyez Only, is nothing more nor less than a message to his newborn daughter. Melodic, rich and abundant sounds make this an emotionally charged final track. A more reserved Cole raps about his past life choices and encounters and near the end the song turns into a conversation with his friend who is eventually about to pass away (most likely James McMilian) and James’ aspirations for his daughter (Nina). 4 Your Eyez Only is J Cole at his finest and makes it one of his best songs yet.
All in all, 4 Your Eyez Only is as J Cole as it gets– lowkey, calming, mellow and powerful. You can truly hear the heart, drive, and emotion Cole placed as he tells us a narration regarding how love and joy can fulfill one’s sorrowful heart. J Cole addresses issues like hopelessness, anger, love, mass incarceration, and parenthood. With Cole having production credits in a majority of the album (with help from the likes of Boi-1da, Cardiak, Childish Major, and more!), one can sense the amount of effort and dedication he has put in due to its rich and soul filling instrumentals throughout the album. Though it is not your traditional rap album with heavy bangers down the line, this is more than a rap album. It is a story of growth and opportunity.
Favorite Tracks: Neighbors, Change, She’s Mine Pt.1, She’s Mine Pt.2,
Least Favorite Track: Folding Clothes
4 Your Eyez Only is on Spotify, Apple Music and iTunes. Check it out!