Earlier this month, Roc Nation artist J. Cole broke his silence and ended his brief hiatus from hip-hop with his newest effort, "Truly Yours." The mixtape seeks to bring a "back to basics" approach, showcasing his rap style and lyricism while simultaneously highlighting his growth as not just a rapper, but also as a musician. While all the intentions were good, this was yet again another project from Cole that seems fine, but not good enough, especially from someone who had all the promise and approval from nearly everyone in the hip-hop sphere - from the fans all the way up to his fellow rap colleagues.
It's simply hard to believe that Cole, the rapper that was supposed to eclipse Jay-Z and strike the balance between the old- and new-school styles and innovate this particular genre of music, has proven time and again how unprepared he is to accept the torch he has been handed time so many times. After a supremely disappointing debut album "Cole World: The Sideline Story," Cole was expected to come back with a vigor and hunger reminiscent of his second-and arguably best - work, "The Warm Up." I anticipated that Cole would do even better for this simple reason: after dropping the ball so badly on his album (and I mean relatively badly, in comparison to what was expected), Cole has been - in many fans eyes, including my own-sidelined from the game of expectation. Thus all pressure has been off, as it should have been, because admittedly it was almost impossible to live up to the hype that Cole had thrust upon his shoulders.
But it takes a man among boys to live up to these expectations, to live up to the hype and bear the weight on his shoulders, and as good as Cole has been, he has yet to be great.
However, I found that this perspective has not stopped Cole from still acting like he's not only great, but also the greatest. "Truly Yours" is a simple, five track compilation that aims to let Cole shine, which I feel he does, to a fault. The introductory song, "Can I Holla At Ya," is the epitome of this point.
The song is not necessarily bad, as it features lone, honest strings of a guitar in the background, serving as the perfect complement to Cole's style and sound. And Cole's lyricism is still spot on, as he describes, "Bigger now but when she sends me a letter always write her back/ And time revealed, she feels that she settled too soon/ While she sees me go for mines and she admire that/ We speak about time as if we could just buy it back."
Cole still plays his role well, but he takes all of this too far, as it feels like Cole is just vibing to the song in all the wrong ways, constantly interjecting "Can I holla at ya?" almost non-stop, to the point of coming off as flashy and unnecessary. And unfortunately, this trend of "too much flash, not enough substance" persists throughout "Truly Yours."
Perhaps we'll see more from a hungrier Cole, one who seems more ambitious and bent on returning to form. After all, this is the self-proclaimed "rap-form LeBron," so perhaps we've yet to witness some maturity and greatness from within him.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.
Contact Miko Malabute at firstname.lastname@example.org