J. Cole
Image via Puma

THE OFF-SEASON

After his hiatus following his 2018 project K.O.D, basketball enthusiast and artist J. Cole is back with his newly released project, The Off-Season. The project consists of 12 songs filled with sampled instrumentals and packed with heavy lyricism. The Off-Season also contains featured artists ranging from the monotone and aggressive 21 Savage to more melodic street newcomer Morray.

WHAT I LISTEN FOR IN PROJECTS

When looking at music, I listen for the vibe of the song, lyrics, and production. As a listener, I expect artists to get out of their comfort zones and experiment. That is part of creating art. For this project, I will be discussing lyrics, production, features, sales, and I will give this project a rating, but, as with all art reviews, my review of The Off-Season is based on personal opinion.

OFF-SEASON: LYRICS

Overall, this project consists of high-quality lyrics in terms of similes, metaphors, and relations to the real world. Some of the main themes of the project include financial upcoming, dominance over the music industry, the fruits of Cole’s labor, being a father, and finally, Cole’s upbringing in the music business. It also retrospects at Cole’s achievements as an artist. Some lyrics that stood out to me:

(Lyrics presented by Genius.com)

“Kill em on a, song walk up out the booth, do the Westbrook rock-a-baby”– Amari

“Envy keep your pockets empty so just focus on you. If you broke and clowning a millionaire, the joke is on you”– Applying Pressure

“I be stayin out the way, but if the beef do come around, Could put a M on your head, you Luigi brother now”– 95. South

10/10

OFF-SEASON: PRODUCTION

The production includes the likes of Timbaland, T-Minus, Boi-1da, and many others, including Cole himself. One can hear many retro sounds in the production along with samples from Amine, Little Junior Parker, and even conversations and dialogues from professional NBA player Damian Lillard, Martin Luther King Jr., and rapper Diddy as presented by Who Sampled. Pianos, guitars, and nostalgic horns are also included throughout the album. I hear many drums that are very reminiscent of the late 1990’s- early 2000’s era.

10/10

OFF-SEASON: FEATURES

Some of the features include 21 Savage and Morray on “My Life”, which was very reminiscent of Cole and 21 Savage previous record “A Lot”. Lil Baby adds a lavish verse to the song “Pride Is The Devil”. In his verse, he discusses his luxurious lifestyle as a rapper, stating that he has five homes, fast cars, and refers back to his previous single, “The Bigger Picture”, which highlights issues within America during a time of increased police brutality and the killing of George Floyd. In the song “Let Go My Hand”, Bas and 6Lack add a melodic chorus and bridge with the overall theme of being an African American man in America, comparing the realities to being a soldier, while Cole talks about raising his son. Overall, these features benefit the album. The album could have ended up with more features, but when looking at the overall tracklist, I think this number was perfect because it doesn’t overwhelm the listener with collaborations.

8/10

SALES, RATINGS, AND OVERALL REVIEW

According to Headline Planet, The Off-Season is estimated to sell 290k- 310k upon its first week. In comparison, Taylor Swift’s album Fearless has the biggest first-week sales, selling 291K units. This alone shows the significance and impact of this album upon Cole’s audience.

Overall, I think this project gives homage to the retro style of rap creation and production while also utilizing new elements of rap, including melodies. This combination can be found throughout all aspects of the project. In a world where rapping is more melodic, it was refreshing to hear something more focused on lyrical value. This doesn’t mean that the music of the present day is awful, but very few of the new records can hold a candle to this project, especially in terms of the length. In a world where many artists will create 20 songs on a project (excluding a deluxe), this project is 12 polished records. Again, there is nothing wrong with 20 songs, but the purpose of music is defeated if the goal is to make these songs in hope that a couple will actually reach radio streams. I would relate this project to listeners who are fans of Earl Sweatshirt, Kendrick Lamar, and Tupac. To conclude, this project is a testament to the mastery of Cole’s skills within the world of rap.

9/10

LISTEN TO THE ALBUM HERE

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