Cole World: The Sideline Story (Review)

I’m in my room listening to The Weeknd’s House of Balloons all the way through the newly released Echoes of Silence, and I figured it’s the best time to start my album reviews. Most of you have probably purchased most of the albums I’m gonna review, but for those who couldn’t make up their minds, here’s my take on a number of albums. It’s been a busy year for music with drops by MANY artists. Back when Watch The Throne dropped I did a full song by song review here and that’s how the following reviews will be. I start with J. Cole’s Cole World: The Sideline Story.

1. Intro If Cole wanted to get my attention, he got it from the get-go. You all know me and you know I’m a sucker for piano interludes, and he starts off the album in full storyteller mode. It features a brief conversation with his crew where he prepares to tell them/us “how he got signed”. He spits a few quick bars that show Jermaine did not come to play around. 4 out of 5 stars.

2. Dollar and a Dream III One of my favorite songs off the album. As soon as the beat drops you can feel that Cole is about to take over. He spits heavy bars about showing the world that he has what it takes and giving his haters something to fear. And when the second verse starts and the beat breaks down with the pianos, it gets emotional. He’s starting off strong and although there are some questionable lyrics ( “I let you feel like you shit, but boy you can’t outfart me”) he kills it. 5 out of 5 stars.

3. Can’t Get Enough (feat. Trey Songz) The second single from the album. It’s mainstream. It’s catchy. To be honest, it’s not the best from Cole but he needed to be on the radio. It’s another song about women being so fine, getting them into bed, blah blah blah. But again, it’s catchy and Trey on the hook is one of the best decisions he could make in this situation. 3 out of 5 stars.

4. Lights Please The song that got J. Cole the deal with Jay-Z. It was only right to put it on the album, not just for that but because it’s a great song. Cole in his zone, lyrically on fire, with a well-produced track. He deserved the record deal and the song definitely deserves 5 out of 5 stars.

5. Interlude More piano interludes. This time he tells his crew the story of how he got pulled over and spent a night in jail the same night he found out he got the Roc Nation deal. It’s nice, nothing spectacular. 3 out of 5 stars.

6. Sideline Story The pianos from the interlude lead into a very similar beat for this song where Cole continues to talk about he was looked over for so long until he got the deal. The thing is you start to see a theme, and you fear that he may be getting repetitive. It’s an alright track though. 3 out of 5 stars.

7. Mr. Nice Watch (feat. Jay-Z) So here we have the track that Jay-Z ended up on. “It cost me a lot, my chain and my watch. They say time is money but really it’s not, if we ever go broke, girl then time is all we got, and we can’t make that back…” That is the hook that Cole sings over this dub-step infused beat. Cole’s verses about material riches are forgettable but the hook is what grabbed me, and Hova killed his verse as usual. I give it 3 out of 5 stars.

8. Cole World When I first heard this song, I immediately gave it 5 stars because the beat makes you just wanna go and perform hoodrat activities with your friends haha but after listening to it a few more times, the lyricism is sub-par. It doesn’t look like Cole put much thought into these bars. 3.5 out of 5 stars.

9. In The Morning (feat. Drake) We’ve all heard this song before. It was released way before the album dropped, and I’m not quite sure why it made it on the album. But the fact of the matter is it’s a great song. Drake goes in and so does Cole. It’s a song the ladies will eat up, and I even remixed it haha. 5 out of 5 stars.

10. Lost Ones One of the first songs J. Cole ever made, even before he released The Come Up. It’s a song about abortion, with the first verse in the man’s perspective, second in the woman’s, and the third in a combination. It’s a very emotional song on an emotional topic, but Cole really gets the job done. This is what we know and love him for, how easily he can touch on the deepest, realest subjects that appeal to at least one person. 5 out of 5 stars.

11. Nobody’s Perfect (feat. Missy Elliot) This song would be NOTHING without Missy Elliot. Take away her hook and the song is forgettable, so shout out to Jermaine for getting her on the track. It’s a sexy song about love and Missy’s voice just fits in so perfectly.But like I said, forgettable lyrics by Cole. 4 out of 5 stars.

12. Never Told This song still intrigues me every time I listen to it. Cole talks about how his father cheated on his mother and he never told his mother about it. It’s a short song, but lyrically Cole touches some real subjects. I gave it 4 out of 5 stars.

13. Rise and Shine This track starts with a clip from a documentary about Jay-Z from 2000, and the beat comes in very beautifully. The beat is a nice mix between a hard song and one that’s real smooth and Cole really goes in over the beat. It’s another song of Cole stuntin’ on his haters but Cole is going for the win. 4.5 out of 5 stars.

14. God’s Gift This is the song that Cole originally wanted Jay-Z to do a verse for, but it just didn’t work out. Personally, I think it would have been a better fit, but oh well. J. Cole manages to dominate regardless. Cole sings on the hook, “…do you trust me? If I was on my last dollar, dead broke, assed out, would you love me?” Lyrically, Cole does a great job of keeping us in this album and the beat is an attention-grabber. 4 out of 5 stars.

15. Breakdown This definitely might be my favorite track from the album. Cole uses this song to discuss how it’s okay to break down and cry, the situations range from a woman staying true while her man is in jail, and even him breaking down when he saw his father after some years. It’s an emotional song with a message everyone can relate to in some way. As usual, the Cole we know and love. 5 out of 5 stars.

16. Work Out I applaud Cole for sampling Kanye’s “The New Workout Plan”, and an obscure sample from the song, at that. But just like “Can’t Get Enough”, the song was made for the radio. He even covers a Paula Abdul song in it. It’s catchy and “poppy’ and was meant to garner additional attention toward the album. But it’s still a good song. 4 out of 5 stars.

That gives the album a rating of 8.13 out of 10. It has already gone gold with shipments of 500,000 copies and it has sold around 463,000 copies. It deserves it all. For a first album, I think Cole did a good job. I think he should step it up lyrically for his next album, but he should not sacrifice his style. The beats were on point, so it’s all good. Go buy the album, you won’t regret it.

-HB