On May 4, Jermaine Cole, aka Light-Skinned Jermaine and famously known as J. Cole, announced the May 14 release of his sixth studio album, The Off-Season, along with (presumably) the album cover. As is always the case when Cole announced a project, drops a loosie and/or a project, the Internets light up—no pun intended—in all manner of entertaining ways. Love or hate him (more on that later, as there’s always more on that), Cole is provocative, he gets the people going. Here are some predictions and premature thoughts.
1. I have no idea if this new album will have features, but I predict and hope it doesn’t. Why? Because if it doesn’t, it will go platinum. Why do I predict this? Because all of J. Cole’s albums with (or without) features, go platinum. But mostly because I hope that J. Cole cares as much as the internet does about ensuring that one of the absurd reasons that his fans think he’s the GOAT (or at least one of them), is that when Cole drops a featureless album that goes platinum, his fans can all proclaim—both jokingly and seriously—that Cole went platinum with no features.
2. That is one fire-ass album cover. Again, no pun intended. While I’m up-and-down on J. Cole, artistically, he knows how to present his projects and this album cover is inline with that. For instance, his cover for 2014 Forest Hills Drive, I would be willing to argue is a classic album cover. 4 Your Eyez Only was dope, and KOD was very Kanye-esque in its artisticness. In fact, if I’m Damian Lillard, aka Dame D.O.L.L.A., I’m mad at this album cover for being so dope and literally being what a Dame Lillard album cover could be that might make folks legit be like, “Yo, I might need to listen to this Dame album.”
3. This tweet from @HBrandon08 is LITERALLY how I view J. Cole fans—I don’t think there are casual Cole fans, just over-the-top all in fans–and this video has catapulted itself into being my favorite video of May thus far:
4. Let’s just go on ahead and get this out of the way: I expect this album to be ho-hum AF with a few records that the general population will think is dope with a few outstanding bars on it, because that’s literally what every single J. Cole album is. And THEN I expect him to drop some random loose-y ass song that is literally better than every single song on the album where he critiques the culture in some insightful and amazeballs-ass way, setting off another round of “Why is Cole so much better on non-album records than album records?” from people like myself, while the Cole stans literally try to find a ranking higher than 1 because in their mind that’s where Cole lives.
5. I also expect some sort of documentary or short film that will also be better than the album that if I wasn’t inundated with building Lego shit that my kids swear we built together would set off a further round of think pieces about how compelling Cole is as a human. Because that is also what always happens.
6. I think one guarantee is a song where he addresses last summer’s dustup with NoName stemming from his “Snow On Tha Bluff” record. I’d be very surprised if that saga doesn’t get a whole song on this new album. There were tweets and songs and Cole actually said (paraphrasing) “I don’t be reading,” which is also very Kanye-esque–though Kanye basically shitted on reading and Cole just noted that it isn’t his thing—which, I’m assuming, didn’t surprise his fans or non-fans. Which, no shade, I just learned a long time ago to stop assuming rappers read anything or spend much time getting informed. Even rappers with degrees who seem enlightened.
7. I’ve been trying to determine if I think that a J. Cole release is an event and I’m pretty sure I’ve landed on the side of “yes.” Cole is a top-tier, A-list rapper. While I’ve gone on record as not being a big fan, I’m not smoking crack either. Cole albums are a thing and they are points worthy of discussion and every song is likely to be discussed and quoted by the same folks who quote Drake records. In fact, the only rapper I’d say whose albums are more events than Cole is, obviously, Kendrick because you literally have no idea what he might do next and it’s always ambitious and always pushing an envelope. Cole doesn’t typically do either (ambition or push envelopes) but he’s still on top of the game so, yes, event.
8. In fact, I’m fairly certain that I will wait up til midnight on the day of release just to listen to it. I’m also sure I’ll be underwhelmed almost immediately, but I will wait to say something until I’ve listened a few times only to find myself in the same spot I was after multiple listens as I was with one. But then I will read about how amazing it is via social media and then I will go back and re-listen multiple times trying to hear what others hear only to realize that I never will...and I was never meant to. And then I will get a bounty of text messages asking me my opinion from those who will be incredulous that I am not finally on the Cole bandwagon.
9. What I’m about to say is going to sound a little bit “get off my lawn,” but I’m glad Cole is releasing a new album. Even if I don’t expect to enjoy it, an album by an artist that makes event albums that underwhelms like usual that sends me down the think-piece rabbit-hole is a welcome respite during a time when the vast majority of hip hop of any stripe (from the Griselda family to the Atlanta contingents) is so boring to me. To me. There is a time when hip hop makes me want to write shit and that is just not where I am right now. I didn’t even give a shit about the Jay-Z and Nas record on Khaled’s album, “Sorry Not Sorry.” That song is not good and I cannot be convinced otherwise. So, lights please, but thank you J. Cole for dropping an album.
Can’t wait, I’m sure it will be the same as it ever was.