by Carla Bynum
The future of Cole’s music career has had fans reeling since the release of “Jermaine’s Interlude” on DJ Khaled’s Major Key album earlier this year. In his verse, Cole said that he has said all he can say and plays with thoughts of retirement. It also didn’t help that during a concert in October, he told attendees that it would be his “last show for a very long time.”
So when he released the documentary “Eyez” via Tidal on December 2nd, fans were surprised yet elated to find out there was new music coming. Along with the release of his documentary came music videos for the songs “False Prophets” and “Everybody Dies.” The release of both caused slight controversy because listeners felt that he was taking shots at Kanye West and his recent public meltdowns on the first verse and aimed the second verse at Wale. On the track “Everybody Dies,” Cole takes shots at the new slew of rappers, such as Lil Yachty and Lil Uzi Vert. Neither song is on the album 4 Your Eyez Only.
On the album’s intro “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” Cole is feeling hopeless and battles with feelings of depression and thoughts of suicide. The song is named after the novel “For Whom the Bell Tolls” by Ernest Hemingway in 1940. The novel’s themes include death and suicide, which are both prevalent on the album’s intro
Cole has been thinking about death a lot lately and on the track “Immortal” he realizes that living legends don’t get their just due until they’re dead and gone. He also wonders why black men have to be athletes, drug dealers or athletes to get recognition.
Cole finds himself in a familiar situation on the track “Déjà vu.” He has his eyes set on a woman but she has a man. That doesn’t stop him from trying to pursue her because he wants her. He questions if she’s in a happy home and why she was out at the club alone.
He wonders how long he can survive with his “Ville Mentality.” Cole mentioned this mentality on a previous song “Can I Holla At Ya” from his EP Truly Yours in 2013. The mentality from his Fayetteville hometown showed him that he had to grind for what he wanted and a better life or he could let his hometown “kill” him. He has reached a point in his success where he is tired of being surrounded by fake people and it won’t be long before he disappears from the rap game.
Cole has never felt so alive and is falling in love on the track “She’s Mine, Pt. 1.” Part 1 is dedicated to his college sweetheart and wife Melissa Heholt because knows him better than anybody in the world and she understands him.
Growing up Cole went through many changes in his life. He raps about those changes in his life on the track “Change.” Lately he’s been feeling down but his intuition has been telling him that things will get better. On the first two verses, he raps about his religion and beliefs in God. On the third verse he ponders if he can remain true to himself after the fame while on the fourth verse he remembers a time that left a friend of his dead. He recalls a time when people fought when there was an issue, not they pull out weapons. One night he was running from gunshots but made it home safely only to find out that his friend James didn’t make it home and was murdered at the age of 22.
No matter how much fame and fortune Cole achieves, he feels that there are people who assume he got his things illegally. His “Neighbors” think he’s a drug dealer because he has a nice house and a lot of money. The second verse highlights police brutality happening in the world and how he feels that despite his success and the fact that President Obama listens to his music, he can be the next victim and there will be no justice served due to the corrupt system.
Cole wants to help out his wife in any way possible. On the track “Foldin Clothes,” his wife is nine months pregnant and he wants to take somethings off her plate. One of her many chores is the laundry and he offers to take on the task for her because he knows it makes her happy. He appreciates the simple things and doesn’t mind sitting on the couch with her while folding clothes and watching Netflix while eating Raisin Bran and almond milk.
“She’s Mine, Pt. 2” is the second part of the two-part “She’s Mine” suite. The first part was dedicated to his wife but this part is dedicated to his newborn daughter. The sight of his daughter makes him feel like he’s falling in love for the first time and knowing that she needs him is a great feeling. His daughter is the reason he continues to fight for what he believes and she is the best thing he’s done in his life. He questions if he’s worthy of being her dad.
The album’s title track “4 Your Eyez Only” is dedicated to James’, Cole’s friend who was murdered at the age of 22, daughter Nina. The first three verses focuses on how James grew up in the projects and took a liking to the street life. His idea of a real man was distorted and he thought being a drug dealer was the quickest way to get what he wanted in life. The same streets that he loved were the death of him and now his daughter is growing up without a father. On the final verse, Cole reveals a chilling conversation with James where he talks about how he had a funny feeling that he wouldn’t see tomorrow. Fatherhood was the only thing James was proud of and he asked Cole to write down his story and play it for Nina when she’s ready. Before the song ends, he also mentions how the system fails black men and instead of mass incarceration, they should educate young black men so they can better their lives.
4 Your Eyez Only is an emotional album that shows us a glimpse into Cole’s soul. He takes us on a journey of life growing up in Fayetteville and how there were only two paths to take. He chose to grind and get out while his friend James chose to embrace the street life. Cole is a private person and this album also marks the first time that he has openly mentioned that he has a daughter. There’s no doubt that Cole is one of the greatest rappers of our generation and this album was a pleasant surprise.
Recommended Tracks: “4 Your Eyez Only,” “She’s Mine,” “Change,” “Foldin Clothes”