“2014 Forest Hills Drive” Review


Photo credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:J._Cole.jpg

Brayden Griffin, Contributor

From the emotion  in “Love yourz” to the more heavy rap in “Fire Squad, ‘ this album is a classic. “2014 Forest Hills Drive” is the name of J Cole’s 3rd studio album. This album shows a lot of emotion and expresses a lot of how Jermaine Lamarr Cole became “J. Cole.”

The first song, “Intro,” is more of a poem than a song. Cole talks about experiences he has encountered. Most of the song is Cole saying “do you wanna be happy,” but after a minute of the song, Cole starts to go deeper into what he faced growing up. He shares about going from the darkest spot, being a drug addict, to becoming a hip-hop superstar, which is very impactful to hear about.

The second song off of the album is called “January 28th,” which happens to be Cole’s birthday. This song goes back into Cole’s past about starting his rap career. The song is full of small stories of Cole hanging out with his friends, but as the song goes on, he tells about how he came up in the rap game and made his come up. This song shows a mellow side of Cole that comes out in only certain songs. In contrast to the rest of the songs on the album, “January 28th” makes the album great.

“Wet Dreamz” is one of my personal favorite songs on the album. This song goes into Cole’s first romantic experience with a girl that went to school with him. It is pretty in-depth but has a very deep story behind it. Cole goes into what his thoughts were and the emotions that he was feeling inside. This song shows a lot of bravery and courage in Cole. He was telling about a time when he was very nervous and uncomfortable, but it is very relatable to his audience. 

In “03’ Adolescence,” Cole talks about growing up in poverty, growing up without his father and feeling like he was worthless. He goes very in-depth in this song about having a conversation with one of his friends who was leaving for college. He was upset because this friend was one of his biggest role models, and he felt like while his friend went off to college and got his dreams, he would be in the trailer park he grew up in, stuck in poverty for his whole life. I really enjoyed this song just because of the back story about his life growing up because it shows the kind of environment Cole grew up in. 

“A Tale of 2 Citiez” is the hard rap side of Cole that he shows very often. Cole talks about his dreams and aspirations as a young kid. He starts the song out with “Since a youngin’ always dreamed of getting rich” and this was just the beginning of the story. This track was very well produced, and the hard bass with the somewhat creepy sounding bells makes the beat very intriguing and unique. 

The next song on the album is another one of my personal favorites. “Fire Squad” is a song that goes along with the last song. Cole talks about black culture compared to white culture in this song. He makes a lot of references to well-known celebrities in this song such as Eminem, Macklemore, Elvis Presley and Justin Timberlake. The groovy but hard bass in this song makes you want to bop your head and then Cole’s catchy chorus with his storytelling verses makes this song a high-caliber song for me. 

“St. Tropez” is a drastically different song than the last two. This song is a lot more mellow. This song is about Cole after he started to get fame. St. Tropez is originally a city from South France that is well known for its wealthy residents. In this song, Cole uses “St. Tropez” as a metaphor in this song for Hollywood because of their similarities. This song is pretty good and is a good factor in the album. It adds more to the story of how Cole got in the spotlight.

Now that Cole has all of the fame in the palm of his hands at this point in the album, the next song demonstrates how he wants to do what he wants, when he wants. “G.O.M.D” is a song that shows how fame started to change Cole. He has now reached and accomplished all of the dreams he had for himself and now that he is at the top, he wants to do what J. Cole wants to do. This song is another one of my favorite songs of this album because of how reckless Cole is on the song. The chanting women you can hear in the background of the song is weird when you first hear it but as you listen more to the song as it comes together, the song builds itself. 

The next song on the album is Cole’s most well-known song and highest rated. “No Role Modelz” is a very special song to me because it brings back so many memories of growing up. This song goes back in-depth to Cole’s childhood, where he had a lack of role models. It talks about how superficial celebrities can be and how growing up without a father figure affected his life growing up. “No role models and I’m here right now, no role models to speak of, searching through my memory, my memory, I couldn’t find one.” This quote is Cole trying to think of role models he had to look up to while growing up but can’t think of one. 

The next song on the album is Cole showing a vulnerable side to himself again, as he reminisces about a past lover that he wishes he could still be with. “Hello” is a song that shows a lot of emotion out of Cole. The song starts with Cole saying “Hello” multiple times as if Cole is waiting for someone to reply to him. He then goes into talking about the girl he wants and goes in-depth about situations they would have. He mentions her being a mother of two, and he feels like he couldn’t settle down and be a good father figure for the kids due to his busy occupation. The upbeat clapping in the background makes the song sound very happy and joyful as if Cole is trying to say he was happy during this time in his life.

The next song “Apparently” is another one of my favorites. Cole starts the song harmonizing to the beat, which is surprising to hear from Cole. The chorus is very soulful and heartfelt. Cole’s first verse on this track dives into his home life on Forest Hills Drive. “Think back to Forest Hills, no perfect home, but the only thing like home I’ve ever known, until they snatched it from my mama and foreclosed her on the loan, I’m so sorry that I left you there to deal with that alone.” This quote goes very deep into how he felt during this time in his life. In the second verse, Cole starts to show off his skills. His wordplay in the second verse is very fun to listen to. I love this song because it is very diverse between his slow rap and fast rap.

“Love yourz” is a beautiful song. The slow piano in the background, in contrast to Cole’s faster style of rap, works very well. This song brings Cole back full circle to the beginning of the album such as “Intro”, and brings him back to the present day in the album. He talks a lot about love and happiness in this song. Cole starts to realize that the money and fame isn’t the happiness he was searching for. One quote in this song that really stands out to me is “It’s Beauty in the struggle, ugliness in the success.” This quote really stuck to me because it shows that even the celebrities that we look up to today still have issues that they deal with. It also shows that even in the worst times, you can still find happiness. 

To wrap up the album, Cole leaves us with “Note to Self.”  In this song, Cole is on a slow melodic beat with a choir. He sings in a very slow and deep voice until about three minutes into the song. This is, by far, the longest song on the album at a whopping 14 minutes and 34 seconds. He uses this song as a form of “credits” for the album. About 10 minutes of the song is him thanking all of his family and friends. Most of the song sounds like he is receiving a Grammy and giving an extra long speech. This song adds a lot of character to the album because it isn’t traditional for rappers especially to have songs such as this one. This shows a lot of gratitude and integrity from Cole. Realizing he didn’t make it where he is on his own and giving the people credit that helped him is really cool to see. 

“2014 Forest Hills Drive” is hands down one of my favorite albums of all time. Cole is a lyrical and musical genius. From listening to this album for the first time, to however many times I’ve listened to it now, I have picked up small phrases that Cole references that I might have missed the first time listening, which makes me like the album even more. The amount of information Cole gives us about his life growing up in this album really paints a picture of what Cole went through as a child all the way up to the hip-hop superstar he has become.