The release of J. Cole’s highly-anticipated album, The Off-Season–three years in the making–broke Spotify’s record for most streams in a single day this year. The day it was released, it was streamed 62 million times.
The Off-Season is one of the North Carolina rapper’s best projects to date, and for the first time ever he has included featured artists on his album, Two of which are the most popular songs on the album.
Jermaine Lamarr Cole, famously known as J. Cole has been making music since early 2007 when he released his debut album The Come Up. In 2014 Cole’s album “2014 Forest Hills Drive” got him nominated for his first two Grammys for Best Rap Album and Best Rap Performance for his hit song “Apparently.” It also won album of the year at the BET Hip Hop Awards in 2015. He then dropped 4 Your Eyez Only in 2016 and KOD‘ in 2018 which were his fourth and fifth albums to be first on the Billboard’s Hot 200 Rankings, Cole also won a Grammy alongside 21 Savage in 2020 for Best Rap Song, “A lot.”
The Off-Season is an album that has multiple tones and perspectives. He talks about his life and how he started from basically nothing and despite “making it” he is still working hard. The album starts with a song called “95 South,” which expresses his frustration with the new music generation, “leeches” and the police and how he is an elite musician himself. The song has an aggressive hip hop beat and with a more of a fast paced rap tone than we’re used to seeing from Cole.
The track “Interlude” contains a type of flow that fans have not heard from Cole before. The song has a very drum-dominant beat with Cole singing with a flow that is faster than we are used to. This song, the second single released from the album, reached a total of 8.5 million streams in 24 hours of it’s release. The song skyrocketed up the Rolling Stones Hot 100 Rankings reaching number one and ending Polo G’s month long run at number one with his hit single “Rapstar.”
This song is followed up with another track called Amari. In this song he talks about how far he has come in his life financially saying “country ***** never seen a passport ‘til i popped off and got a bag for it, Now i’m at the Garden sittin’ half court…” and “I made it out that gotta mean somethin’ either you gon hustle hard or a ***** uncle sam got your re-enlisting…”. Amari has a smooth beat that includes the guitar and the drums, Cole goes back to his soothing singing style as he passionately talks about his feelings.
The third track of this album, “My Life,” is very meaningful. It talks about Cole’s life before he found music: “Woke up early from shots that were swarmin’ A block full of opps, now the cops in an orbit Guess somebody got popped” Here, Cole talks about the violent City of Fayetteville, North Carolina where he grew up. This song has a feature from 21 Savage and also starts with a small guitar riff but quickly switches to a more upbeat tone with a lot of drums and bass, Cole once again uses more of a singing style which he is most famous for.
He talks more about his experiences in “Pride is the Devil” as he says, “Bright lights pass me in the city, it’s emеrgency I’m thankful ’cause I made it past my thirties, no one murdered me Still remember vividly the ***** that pulled a gun on me I’m petrified, but moving like I got no sense of urgency…” This song also starts with a guitar riff with a high hat drum and a bass guitar. Cole starts off singing then switches later on to a more fast paced rap style, as a very unexpected feature from Lil Baby begins.
J. Cole is known for not having any featured artists appear on any of his solo albums. He has appeared on many artists albums as a feature but has always made his albums and projects exclusively his music. That has changed on The Off-Season, which includes seven features: three from Bas and one each from 21 Savage, 6lack, Morray and Lil Baby. The features were very unexpected but did not disappoint.
In fact, the two most popular songs on the album both included features: “My Life” featuring 21 Savage and Morray, and “Pride is the Devil” featuring Lil Baby which both heavily contributed to the album reaching just over 325 million streams in its first week. The album set the record for most popular hip-hop project for 2021, according to MRC Data.
The Album as a whole was very entertaining and was definitely worth the wait. The album has many different types of flows, beats and demeanor showing how diverse of an artist J. Cole really is. Although seeing features on the album was slightly disappointing the artists did an amazing job.
What’s Next For Cole? Basketball, apparently.
The rapper has traveled overseas to play for the Rwanda Patriots in the Basketball Africa League. Cole played basketball all throughout high school and even in university. He walked onto the NCAA division one team at Saint John’s University.
On Cole’s pro-basketball debut, he scored three points, made three rebounds and two assists.
Let’s hope another album comes soon.
Cover Image: Dreamville