J. Cole’s newest album “KOD” tells the stories of how young people are often taught to turn to different types of addiction, such as substances or money when struggling with the pressures in their personal life.
On Thursday, J. Cole tweeted that the album’s title signified three different meanings: “Kids on Drugs, King Overdosed, and Kill Our Demons.”
It’s unclear if most of the songs are personal to J. Cole’s experiences, but they act as a warning of how easy it is to become a slave to the drugs often glorified in the music industry.
The first track introduces the album with the opening lines, “Can someone please turn off my mind” and “I’m trapped inside myself.” The closing lines of the intro warn to “choose wisely” when dealing with those feelings.
The first full song on the album, “KOD,” addresses the frequently asked question as to why his last two albums didn’t feature other artists: J. Cole doesn’t feel as though anyone else was worthy of being a part of his music, exemplifying the mistrust he has from fellow musicians who ask him to collaborate.
The end of “KOD” introduces the album’s focus on narcotics; J. Cole mentions his first experience with his friend’s pharmaceutical drugs as a way to numb the pain from the dangerous environment he once lived in. After listing off several types of addictions, which include fame, greed and substance abuse, he tells listeners to instead focus on feelings of love.
“Photograph” touches on another type of addiction–social media. When he raps the lyrics “Love today’s gone digital, and it’s messing with my health,” he is reflecting on the way people are constantly using social media to feel relevant and make connections.
Addiction to money and fame, and how people think having it could solve all of their problems, is brought up in “ATM” and Motiv8.”
However, the theme of addiction becomes blurred with the track “Kevin’s Heart,” but the song still manages to relay a powerful message. While at first it sounds like a simple love song, with the pre-chorus of “She was my number one, I don’t need nothing on the side,” the song changes tone by mentioning different types of drugs J. Cole was taking and how he was constantly tempted to be with other women. It seems that he uses drugs as a way to stop himself from feeling the guilt that comes with cheating.
While J. Cole briefly responded in the first track to people who questioned him for not having any featured artists, he further hints this by having two songs that show his name alongside an unknown artist named kiLL edward.
After leaving fans wondering who the mysterious artist was, he got the last laugh when people realized kiLL edward was just J. Cole’s alter ego.
The two songs kiLL edward is featured in, “The Cut Off” and “FRIENDS,” depict him as someone who talks of his struggles with addiction and about how he forgot how to be happy. J. Cole acts as a mentor to kiLL edward by trying to explain what he needs to do in order to overcome his problems.
The album’s theme of dependence on substances and money flows seamlessly throughout the record with the exception of three songs: “BRACKETS, “Window Pain” and “1985 (Intro to ‘The Fall Off’).”
“BRACKETS” first strays far from the album’s main topics, with J. Cole explaining the problem of taxes. “Window Pain” and “1985 (Intro to ‘The Fall Off’)” rather reflect on J. Cole’s life, as well as the future of new rappers. He insinuates that while he understands that rappers feel the need to party and not care about the quality of their music as long as they make money, he says this will affect the rappers negatively once their listeners tune in to the next up-and-coming rapper.
The album’s message might be different than his previous messages of authenticity and mortality, but “KOD” is made in the classic J. Cole style. The mixture of slow and energetic songs is a trend he has stayed with throughout all of his albums, but “KOD” tells a unique story.
J. Cole’s “KOD” acts as a warning to people who are tempted by the addictions idolized by other rappers, making the reasoning unclear as to why he scheduled the album to come out on April 20, a day people often associate with drug use.