In 2014, Hip Hop is a genre that values the sentiment of "what have you done for me lately," more than "quality over quantity." The life shelf for a rap release is sometimes as short as days, unless the tune is catchy or bass heavy enough to ring off in night clubs across the country. Lyrical rap works peak out after trending on twitter and are easily forgotten. In the new age of social media, more is more. Last night, on November 16th, 2014, J Cole poignantly took a stab at going against the grain and restoring the traditional hip-hop element of surprise and re-emergence to the game as he announced the release of his third studio album 2014 Forest Hills Drive slated for December 9th.
In the 90s we grew accustomed to a rapper doing a press run for their album, releasing multiple singles, going on tour, and then disappearing until their next body of work. Nas, Tupac and The Notorioius B.I.G are just a few legendary artists whose first three albums came with breaks of at least two years between their releases. Now through Twitter beefs, gossip blogs, endless features, a saturation of free releases and more rap stars are afraid and literally unable to fade to black. Today's rapper is scared to let whatever momentum they've established slip away but their desperate attempts to remain hot often tarnish their campaign regardless. J Cole went away, lived life, grew into a new perspective and has come back with a seemingly new image and vision. Throughout J Cole's album trailer he talks about not wanting to lose the real things in life in exchange for the glitz and glam of Hollywood: "I don't want [success] if it's at the expense of my happiness...there's alot of people in Hollywood right now who have been there a long time and forgotten about their small time lives because they like this better but, this shit aint real." J Cole's hair is uncut, and his facial features are poorly groomed. His clothes look straight out of any college kids closet. It's clear that J Cole has broken free from the strain of materialism. J Cole's time away will undoubtedly create a major difference between his second and third album subject and tone wise, which is needed to build a dynamic discography that leaves a mark on time.
As 2014 comes to a close without any truly break away rap release (perhaps YG's My Krazy Life), J Cole's album is the most important project that will hit shelves this year. Firstly, this is J Cole's first chance to capture album of the year honors as his counter parts Drake and Kendrick Lamar will likely battle it out in 2015. Secondly, if J Cole's album is successful (sales, critical acclaim) it will restore faith in the classic album rollout and inspire artists to take their time with the music. Certain rap heavyweights such as Rick Ross will release their second LP in the single calendar year without any new subject matter to discuss. As we've learned throughout history, good hip hop is always worth the wait. 2014 Forest Hills Drive (named after his childhood residence) will hit stores on December 9th, and it looks like we are in for a real Cole winter.
-Written by Gregory Calvaire