By Anthony J. Wong,
Rapper and producer J. Cole aka Young Simba dropped his debut album “Cole World: The Sideline Story” in late September. Like Simba from
the Lion King and as the first artist signed to Jay-Z’s Roc Nation label, Cole has some big expectations to fulfill. “The Sideline Story” offers a behind-the-scenes look at how a college student who graduated with magna cum laude honors from St. John’s University becomes the next big player in the game of hip hop.
The album’s first track “Dollar and a Dream III,” begins emotionally with lines like, “Walk with a
player, I give you my pain, so much on my mind I wonder how it fit in my brain.” By delivering clever and effective emotional expression, it’s Cole, doing what he does best.
The rapper addresses social issues in the track “Lost Ones,” about a relationship between young adults that results in a young pregnancy and the discord that ensues. “And I ain’t too proud to tell you that I cry sometimes about it, if this world was perfect then we can make it work, but I doubt it.” It’s a fine example of Cole’s storytelling ability.
Four tracks feature major collaborations. From Jay-Z on “Mr. Nice Watch” and Drake on “In the Morning” to Trey Songz on “Can’t get
Enough” and Missy Elliot on “Nobody’s Perfect.” All of the collaborations are worthy singles and give the album the mainstream appeal needed to sell.
Cole continues to distance himself from mediocre talent with “Rise and Shine,” declaring “In a game full of liars it turns out
that I’m the truth. Cause the ones you thought could hang with me, can’t even tie my noose!”
If it’s humanly possible to live up to a Jay-Z endorsement, Cole does it through merging thought-provoking content, suave lyrics and self-produced original beats. No longer on the sidelines, J. Cole deliversone of the top 10 albums of the year and the top-selling debut hip hop album of 2011.