Takeaways from J. Cole's New Album, KOD Favorite 

Practitioner: 

Date: 

Apr 20 2018

Location: 

Virtual

In keeping with his activist turn on 2016’s 4 Your Eyez Only, J. Cole’s new album, KOD, is an exploration of addiction. The title has three different meanings that all speak to this aim: Kids On Drugs, King OverDosed, and Kill Our Demons. Each feeds into the next in this narcotic odyssey.

Things with Cole can get a bit after-school special, but you have to commend the North Carolina MC for his dedication. Across 12 tracks spanning 42 minutes, he takes the government to task, empathizes with depression sufferers and gun violence victims, turns a Kevin Hart cheating scandal into a treatise on infidelity, and re-evaluates his own childhood—and he largely does it alone. As you dive into the new album, here are some things to know going in.

An Anti-Drug PSA

Cole spends much of KOD encouraging listeners not to do drugs, both performing as an addict and examining those around him, in his efforts to dissuade. This is obviously in response to rap’s ongoing obsession with opioids like Percocet and sedatives like Promethazine and Xanax, but the album’s aim becomes clearer with some background. Cole’s mother, Kay, dealt with addiction throughout his childhood, which he addressed directly in early songs like “Breakdown.” KOD takes a more intimate look inside their fraying relationship, like on “Once an Addict (Interlude).”

His last album, 4 Your Eyez Only, was told, in part, from the perspective of a childhood friend and reformed drug dealer who was murdered, and shared on account of the daughter he left behind. Cole has rapped frequently about friends left behind because of crack addiction. These are all important reference points: Cole’s proximity to drugs, the people who use them and sell them, and the impact they’ve had on his life undoubtedly played a major role in shaping his views on drug reform.

Death, Taxes, and… Sliding into the DMs

Our overmedicated society is obviously at the center of Cole’s album, but he’s got plenty of other things on his mind, too. "Photograph" weighs the very modern horror of pursuing romance online, specifically on social media. On “BRACKETS,” he wonders aloud what the government is doing with all of his tax money, segueing into a critique of its allocation of resources to ghettos. His verse on the outro, “Window Pain,” picks up the story of a girl who watched her cousin get shot in the head and neck. The old saying goes that nothing in life is certain except death and taxes, but J. Cole seems convinced that has changed in the modern age. Now, there’s catfishing, too.

By Sheldon Pearce

Posted by Annalisa Ciro on

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