Label: Dreamville/Roc Nation/Interscope
Released: April 20
J. Cole followed up 4 Your Eyez Only—a project that was largely from a perspective that was not his own—with an album that tackles themes of drug abuse and addiction, as well as the ways these issues have affected his own life. He weaves commentary and critique with a commendable balance, highlighting his mom's past struggles with addiction ("Once an Addict (Interlude)"), or his friends who have gone down the wrong path in life, or his own relationship with money ("ATM") while still keeping the narrative fresh.
Cole also puts critic Lil Pump on notice with "1985"—the two rappers have since worked out their differences—and he addresses his no-features approach: "Only gon' say this one time, then I'll dip/Niggas ain't worthy to be on my shit." Another platinum plaque soon come. —Edwin Ortiz