J. Cole
The Off-Season


3.7
great

Review

by MiloRuggles STAFF
May 31st, 2021 | 34 replies


Release Date: 05/14/2021 | Tracklist

Review Summary: I guess the critics think I'm just a joke

Whether your head is buried in sand, trapped in your own sphincter, or simply sitting astride your shoulders, you're likely to understand that the artists we revere often have different tastes to critical media and their resultant groupthinks. If you want to see this hypothesis out in the wild, venture onto YouTube and surrender the following search unto big data: “what's in my bag”. These videos in which Big Name Artists are let loose in a record store and then interviewed about what they find usually contain at least one surprise or outsider take, passionately espoused. Notice how, contrary to how critics operate, the zeitgeist is rarely mentioned in relation to these recommendations. Rather, the general gist is sheer admiration for simple acts of creativity or craftsmanship.

Following this vein, if you don't mind sullying your algorithm with short clips of talking heads in the hip-hop sphere, try searching for something like “rappers talk about J. Cole”. What you'll see here is a who's who of hip-hop discussing J. Cole's exact placement within the pantheon. As far as active rappers go, the big names will tell you that he's near, if not on, the podium.

It's not as if he hasn't proved himself. Across six LPs and two lengthy mixtapes Cole has spent a hot minute in the kitchen, and his fans are busy chowing down at Le Restaurant de Jermaine, paying no heed to the herd of critics standing placidly outside the window, jotting down their personal grievances with the décor, transposing lengthy complaints into biting tweets, setting the world alight.

Full credit to the critics; their grievances are often founded. While Cole's winding flows and impassioned performances are no less impressive on wax, it's in both the artistic minutiae and the holistic, front-to-back experience of the eternally-revered Album where he traditionally falls short.

Once more, vindication unto the keyboard warriors; Cole's gone and done it again. His performance on The Off-Season will have hip-hop oldheads smiling, nodding, reminiscing on days of old. The way he balances carrying a single rhyme through most of a track like in 'p u n c h i n ' . t h e . c l o c k' or 'c l o s e' against clever feinting and switching of flows in 'i n t e r l u d e' and 't h e . c l i m b . b a c k' will have rappers creaming their jeans. Finally, the lack of any poignant through-line either sonically or thematically will have bespectacled journalists shaking their heads and talking about how Kendrick does it better. Same artist, same strengths, same weaknesses, same conversations, same numerical scores. Fuckin' yawn.

Let's focus on some of the positives that are persistently pushed to the wayside. Cole's mileage with multi-syllabic rhyme patterns is ridiculous ('9 5 . south''s first verse); his use of autotune/melody is on point, and even gets explorative in a couple moments ('a m a r i' and 'h u n g e r . o n . h i l l s i d e'); and his best tracks are straight up murder. 't h e . c l i m b . b a c k' in particular is unreal – the beat is a woozy carnival ride, the chorus goes in, and the all-important verses contain Cole's most elaborate rhythmic flows (plural, this is important) of the release while retaining a smooth and charismatic delivery. The second verse maintains the effortless technicality of the first, but brings emotion to the fore, describing the suffering he's witnessed, and is still witnessing, people close to him experience.

Of course, there are nits to be picked, but that's already been done by most publications, and you'll know'em when you hear'em. What all of these middling scores (see above) don't project to the media-consuming masses is that this album remains essential listening for hip-hop fans in spite of its shortcomings. If that statement pangs of mediocrity to you, chances are that this album will strike you as appropriately mild. For those that are about the craft, the same statement signals an exclusive tour through a realm of rapping brilliance. Cole has earned his right to hyperbole just as he earned his professional basketball signing – with hard fucking work and training. Rest assured that while a bunch of us nerds are sticking as many demerits as we can find onto The Off-Season, rappers worldwide are studiously listening and taking notes.



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user ratings (104)
3.2
good

Comments:Add a Comment 
MiloRuggles
Staff Reviewer
May 31st 2021


1319 Comments

Album Rating: 3.7

Not an in-depth analysis from yours truly, but this seemed like a significant hole in our database. If people rhyming words is your thing, spin this.

BlushfulHippocrene
Staff Reviewer
May 31st 2021


3646 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Very much not into this style of hip hop, but I appreciate this review. Might give this a run just for the hell of it.

Emim
May 31st 2021


30263 Comments


People rhyming words is my thing, but I just don't like J Cole's music.

MiloRuggles
Staff Reviewer
May 31st 2021


1319 Comments

Album Rating: 3.7

cheers blush, i don't imagine it'll change your mind if you don't like the style at all, but it's definitely worth checking out just for the r a p p i n '

fair call emim, tis what tis, just tryna turn some people onto trying something outside their zone is all. wasn't trying to frame the review as a 'if you disagree you're wrong' sorta thing, just an interesting angle

Slex
May 31st 2021


11499 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

I've hated every single thing J Cole has done from Born Sinner onwards but this is one of my fave albums of the year

Digging: The Raging Nathans - Waste My Heart

MiloRuggles
Staff Reviewer
May 31st 2021


1319 Comments

Album Rating: 3.7

That's the 'tude, slexy. How about those big boss Kojima bars? Nobody else could have made that reference as cool as Cole

Slex
May 31st 2021


11499 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Those were definitely the rewind bars for me, he did actually make it work, the mad lad

JesperL
Contributing Reviewer
May 31st 2021


3095 Comments


god i love this review, wonderful stuff milo
don't think i'll listen to this but hey who knows

Digging: The Buildings - Heaven is a Long Exhale

SitarHero
May 31st 2021


12986 Comments


This guy better at music than he is at basketball?

Slex
May 31st 2021


11499 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Recently, yes

SitarHero
May 31st 2021


12986 Comments


I might give it a shot then.

Trebor.
Staff Reviewer
May 31st 2021


57930 Comments


2.7 average with no FEATURES

Digging: Parting - Unmake Me

Lacedaemonius
May 31st 2021


60 Comments


people afraid to search things for arousing the wrath of the ALGORITHM is the cyberpunk dystopia we deserve.
and how can it be authentic hip-hop if it has autotune???

Nikkolae
May 31st 2021


5822 Comments


why do I get the feeling that this sounds like what Drake thinks he sounds like? idk how to describe it....

Digging: Deathspell Omega - The Furnaces of Palingenesia

MiloRuggles
Staff Reviewer
May 31st 2021


1319 Comments

Album Rating: 3.7

Cheers Jesper! Always feels good to get the nod from someone whose writing you love xx. If nothing else, check this track (same goes for anyone on the fence): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oVaBgcJwkI4



>2.7 average with no FEATURES

lol



>and how can it be authentic hip-hop if it has autotune???

Checkmate. brb (maybe?), researching various methods of self-immolation via DuckDuckGo

Nikkolae
May 31st 2021


5822 Comments


"Finally, the lack of any poignant through-line either sonically or thematically will have bespectacled journalists shaking their heads and talking about how Kendrick does it better."

I swear to god that most of the bars here are on the same level as kendrick's like for real.

MiloRuggles
Staff Reviewer
May 31st 2021


1319 Comments

Album Rating: 3.7

>why do I get the feeling that this sounds like what Drake thinks he sounds like? idk how to describe it....

You know what, I've never actually listened to a full Drake album. Guess I'll dive into that soon.

>I swear to god that most of the bars here are on the same level as kendrick's like for real.

For sure, they play a similar game as far as switching up flows goes. Kendrick has more voices at his disposal and shoots for grandiosity, I guess. Oh shit, I'm becoming the beast I was hunting

tinathefatlard
May 31st 2021


1815 Comments


I remember the first time I saw the name J. Cole. I thought it was a female R&B singer.

Nikkolae
May 31st 2021


5822 Comments


"Oh shit, I'm becoming the beast I was hunting"

lol

JeetJeet
May 31st 2021


9480 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Cole's first good project in a loooong time. Great review.



"You know what, I've never actually listened to a full Drake album. Guess I'll dive into that soon"

Take Care, Nothing Was The Same, If You're Reading This, & Views, you gotta hear em all man you've been missing out on some good shit

Digging: Sonder (CA) - Into



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