5 Things We Learned on the First Listen of J. Cole's 'KOD'

On Monday, Jermaine Lamarr Cole turned the Internet upside down when he cleared his Instagram and turned his social media pictures to a purple background. Speculation ran rampant that a new J. Cole album was on the horizon and it turns out that conjecture turned out to be correct as the North Carolina emcee formally announced his fifth studio album KOD would be dropping by the end of the week. 

Without as much as a peep of a single, Cole has unleashed KOD to the masses with, you guessed it, no guest appearances. But the big question that loomed large was what the theme of the album would be. With the title being divided into three different meanings — Kids on Drugs, King Overdosed and Kill our Demons — social media did their best to figure out what direction Cole was heading with this project. 

Well, we don’t have to guess any longer as KOD has arrived and here are five things that jumped out at us on the first listen. 

A Certain Group Of Rappers Will Take Grave Offense To “1985"

At 33 years of age, J. Cole recognizes that he’s aged out of a generation of emcees and the new breed of rappers who are currently under the age to drink alcohol, only lived through the eras of Bush and Obama and might label Cole as an “old head.” To this generation of colorful, pill-popping rappers, Cole offers sobering advice without necessarily judging them. Although the song doesn’t call out any rapper by name, the messaging is a harsh enough reality that somebody might be unwilling to accept.  

"And plus, you havin' fun and I respect that/ But have you ever thought about your impact?/ These white kids love that you don't give a fuck/ 'Cause that's exactly what's expected when your skin black/ They wanna see you dab, they wanna see you pop a pill/ They wanna see you tatted from your face to your heels/ And somewhere deep down, fuck it, I gotta keep it real/ They wanna be black and think your song is how it feels"

Yeah, somebody is definitely going to think that J. Cole is talking about them. 

KOD Starts Off Slow, But Builds A Head Of Steam

Upon first listen, KOD methodically sets a foundation for the album by quietly bubbling before boiling over in the final stretch. To be honest, the first half of the album on its own wouldn’t work without the turn it takes somewhere around “Motiv8” and “Kevin’s Heart.” But like that movie that you’re asked to stick with until the payoff, it all makes sense by the time Cole reaches the album’s closer “1985.” 

J. Cole Feels Some Type Of Way About Drugs

From the album’s artwork to a majority of the songs, Cole feels a certain kind of way about today’s drug culture. He’s clearly been affected by those around him and their drug usage as evidenced on the “Once an Addict” interlude and the topic is a prevailing theme throughout the album. He recognizes the havoc that drugs can have on not only an individual, but everyone around them. But he also acknowledges that drugs don’t only come in the pill form as his drugs of choice range from an addiction of appeasing his fanbase (“KOD”), helping others (“The Cut Off”), or living in the past (“Friends”). Ultimately, all of these “drugs” are coping mechanisms that have side effects that leave us all feeling empty. 

Lines From “The Cut Off” Will Definitely Be Subliminal Captions On Social Media

Perhaps the song that people can relate to more than any other on KOD is “The Cut Off.” We’ve all been there when somebody we called a friend took our kindness for weakness and ran with it. Sooner or later, we all wise up to their “gimme” antics and have to eject them out of our lives. Cole captures this feeling brilliantly on “The Cut Off” and you can fully expect these choice lines to be subliminals.

"I know the punishment for you is that you not with me”
"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 couldn't get a dollar from you I remember that/ It was blurry for a while but now it's coming back”

This Album Will Be Just As Polarizing As Previous J. Cole Albums 

If there’s one thing we’ve learned about J. Cole, it’s that he has a rabid base of loyal fans and an equally cynical base of people who truly dislike whatever he does. It’s rare to find somebody in the middle and KOD will do little to change that. Social media immediately lit up with claims of “classic” no more than an album after the album dropped while the skeptics panned the album for its methodical pacing and launched right into a war of words on Twitter. J. Cole will achieve the "platinum with no guest features" status again, but he probably won’t convert new fans with a project that is so deliberately paced. He touches on the criticism briefly on the album’s opener but you can rest assured that he’s over trying to please everyone.