J. Cole - KOD: Side A/Side B

>> J. Cole has never been known to shy away from hard truths. From addiction to the military-industrial complex, “KOD” is no exception.

The Good:

J. Cole writes lyrics that others can only dream about. “KOD” is an album about addiction, but there’s so much more going on. Even at first glance, he’s not just talking about drugs or alcohol. There are addictions to money, to power, even to people. Cole isn’t using his words to judge people for addictions, either. His tone is more “I’ve been there, don’t do what I did”. “KOD” isn’t glorifying a lifestyle of addiction, it’s a cautionary tale - starring J. Cole himself.

A full album about the concept of addiction may seem odd. At some point, it must get dull, or overly drawn-out, right? Not with J. Cole at the helm. Rather than focusing on the drugs, the liquor, the fame, he pays most attention to how addiction affects people. “KOD” is a deeply personal album, with Cole exposing real vulnerability through his words.

Special credit also goes to J. Cole for production. The tracks on “KOD” are only as complex as they need to be. It’s a simple album, with the background stripped down to feature the vocals. Cole knows you’re here for the lyrics, and he’s not going to cover them up if he doesn’t need to. His voice is right at the front, keeping your attention on his words.

The Bad:

That production, however, ties into a larger problem with “KOD”. J. Cole’s no stranger to being the only prominent voice on an album, but here it comes across a bit narcissistic. The production is J. Cole, the lyrics are J. Cole, the only featured artist is J. Cole with a voice changer. That’s not inherently a problem, but on “KOD” it sounds like he’s declaring himself the sole voice of recovery.

There are parts of “KOD” where Cole admits his faults. He talks about his struggles with addiction, his imperfections as a human being. But at the same time, he somehow manages to brag. While talking about overcoming his faults, he manages to fall victim to some of the exact vices he’s decrying. His lyrics may be deeply personal, but that person can be a bit of a hypocrite.


“KOD” is an album with two faces. At one level, it’s very down-to-earth. J. Cole’s had his experiences with addiction, he’s had friends and family fall under its vices. “KOD” is his chance to bring that history out, and in doing so try to benefit people who need help in their own lives. At the same time, though, Cole doesn’t miss his chances to brag. Climbing tax brackets, overcoming his vices, buying his mom’s house: Cole knows he’s made it, and he doesn’t want you to forget. He even ends the album by calling out new rappers, telling them how to fix their art. With “KOD”, J. Cole speaks on a very personal level. He just wants you to know he’s coming down from his pedestal to do it. 4/5 <<