Label: Dreamville Records/Roc Nation/Interscope Records
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 topical 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 alcoholism (“Once an Addict”), tales of his friends who have gone down the wrong paths in life (“Friends”), and his own flawed relationship with money (“ATM”). In each instance, Cole keeps the narrative fresh while also offering guidance where he can. This is especially true on the album’s closer, “1985.” Partially taking aim at Lil Pump—the two rappers have since worked out their differences—Cole keeps it real with his younger peer about maneuvering in the game, as he raps, “Congrats ’cause you made it out your mama's house/I hope you make enough to buy your mom a house.” J. Cole has entered the big homie stage of his career, and with KOD, he proves himself one of the most vital voices of his generation. —Edwin Ortiz