J. Cole's highly anticipated fourth studio album 4 Your Eyez Only was released last week, capping off what has been a two-year wait for devoted fans anxious to get another full-length project from one of the top MCs in the game. Going for dolo yet again and passing on guest features, Cole delivers 10 tracks that encompass life for a young Black male coming of age in a society that's not designed for his benefit.
Leading off with "For Whom the Bell Tolls," J. Cole's impassioned wails greet listeners before being punched in the gut with the sheer brashness that is "Immortal," which finds the rapper giving us a glimpse into the trap and the mentality of those who participate in it. "Deja Vu," which appears to be the most radio-friendly selection on 4 Your Eyez Only, utilizes the same sample as Bryson Tiller's "Exchange," with Cole waxing poetic about an encounter with a woman that has the potential to be his main squeeze.
Vulnerability is felt on "She's Mine, Pt. 1," an interlude that conveys the comfort of love (he could very well be speaking on his newborn daughter) and how it can affect a man's outlook on life and his ability to be open with a woman. Sometimes criticized for his more mundane subject matter, J. Cole gives his detractors added ammo with "Foldin Clothes," an addictive tune that equates household chores with chivalry and romance, and makes for one of the more sincere tales for the average Joe in quite some time.
"Ville Mentality," "Change" and "Neighbors" are also among the tracks that are sure to pique listener's interest, but the main event may very well be the album's title track, an intense eight minutes of unbridled lyricism, which ends 4 Your Eyez Only on an admirable note. The wait was worth it for Cole, who is predicted to have huge first-week sales.
After sifting through all of the rhymes on 4 Your Eyez Only, XXL highlights 20 of the most impactful and essential lyrics that will resonate with listeners for years to come.
"Have you ever seen a fiend cook crack on the spoon?/Have you ever seen a nigga that was black on the moon?/Have you ever seen your brother go to prison as you cried?/Have you ever seen a motherfuckin' ribbon in the sky?"
"I know nobody meant to live forever anyway/And so I hustle like my niggas in Virgini-A/They tellin' niggas sell dope, rap or go to NBA, in that order/It's that sort of thinkin' that been keepin' niggas chained/At the bottom and hanged/The strangest fruit that you ever seen, ripe with pain"
"It's either that or they be fearing they gon' go to hell/Asking the father for forgiveness—God, I'm overwhelmed/As if he's spiteful like them white folks that control the jail/See I believe if God is real, he'll never judge a man/Because he knows us all and therefore he would understand"
"Niggas put three bullets in my car one hit the gas tank/Know I got a angel 'cause I'm supposed to have a halo right now/my lifestyle destined for a federal facility/For my ability to make them birds fly/Fiends wanna get higher than a bird's eye view/And who am I tell a nigga what to do?"
"Yeah, prodigal son/Got a new gun, this one/Don't run out of ammo lately been working on my handles/Can I ball, become a star, and remain myself/If I fall, dust it off and regain myself/Fuck 'em all"
"I don't want no picture with the president, I just wanna talk to the man/Speak for the boys in the bando and my nigga never walkin' again/Apologized if I'm harpin' again, I know these things happen often/But I'm back on the scene, I was lost in a dream as I write this/A teen down in Austin"
"Some things you can't escape/Death, taxes, NRA/It's this society that make/Every nigga feel like a candidate/For a Trayvon kinda fate/Even when your crib sit on a lake/Even when your plaques hang on a wall/Even when the president jam your tape"
"Foldin' clothes, watching Netflix/Catching up on our shows, eating breakfast/Raisin Bran in my bowl with bananas and some almond milk/I never thought I'd see the day I'm drinking almond milk"
"Niggas from the hood is the best actors/We the ones that got to wear our face backwards/Put your frown on before they think you soft/Never smile long or take your defense off/Acting tough so much we start to feel hard/Live from the city where they pull cards"
"Despite the charges, back to the wall, I fight regardless/Screaming, 'Fuck the law,' my life is lawless/That's what you call it/Ain't got to be no psychic to see this is like the farthest thing from heaven/This is hell and I don't mean that hyperbolic"
"I try to find employment even if it's wiping toilets/But these felonies be making life the hardest/Resisting the temptation to run up and swipe a wallet/Or run up on your yard, snatch your daughter bike and pawn it/That's why I write this sonnet"
"Listen, I got no time to dive into descriptions/But I've been having premonitions/Just call it visions from the other side/I got a feeling I won't see tomorrow/Like the time I'm living on is borrowed/With that said, the only thing I'm proud to say I was a father/Write my story down and if I pass, go play it for my daughter "
"I hope not, I'm tired of dope spots/And fiends that smoke rocks/I've seen far too many niggas' hopes rot/I'm writing this because me and the devil had a dance/Now I see death around the corner, 'pologizing in advance"
"They just pull up on your street, let the heat achoo/And if a real nigga hungry, he gon' eat your food/I was a fool, spent all my time ducking school, ducking cops/Ducking rules, hugging blocks that don't love you/I pray you find a nigga with goals and point of views/Much broader than the corner, if not it's gon' corner you"
"This perspective is a real one, another lost Ville son/I dedicate these words to you and all the other children/Affected by the mass incarceration in this nation/That sent your pops to prison when he needed education/Sometimes I think this segregation would've done us better"
"Now I was barely 17 with a pocket full of hope/Screamin', dollar and a dream with my closet lookin' broke/And my nigga's lookin' clean, gettin' caught up with that dope/Have you ever served a fiend with a pocket full of soap?"
"You call it runnin', I call it escapin'/Start a new life in a foreign location/Similar to my niggas duckin' cases/Can't take the possible time that it faces"
"But if I had a magic wand to make the evil disappear/That means that there would be no Santa Claus no more to bring you Christmas cheer/'Cause what he represents is really greed and the need/To purchase shit from corporations that make a killin'/Because they feed on the wallets of the poor/Who be knockin' on they door, every Black Friday/Just to get some shit they can't afford"
"These quiet thoughts of you been going on for years now/I saw you in the party, soft lips, soft-spoken/I came and talked to you but homie interfered now/He introduced you as his girl and I was heartbroken"
"I heard you got a man, but who in their right mind letting you out the house alone?/Tell me is your house a home?/Why you in the club looking like you out to zone?/I be discreet and pull out your phone and put my number in it"