"Sometimes I brag like Hov/ Sometimes I'm real like Pac," J. Cole raps on his second LP. Sometimes he's both – a verbal powerhouse and a self-emptying truth-sayer. The flagship signee to Jay-Z's record label spins dervish rhymes over dazzling self-produced tracks (see the Outkast-sampling "Land of the Snakes"). His riffs on racism, homophobia and misogyny have more lyrical cunning than insight. But when it comes to twisting himself into Kanye-size pretzels of career-oriented real talk, he's a champ; on "Villuminati," he raps, "Beyoncé told me that she want to cop the blue Bugatti/That shit is more than what I'm worth/I think she knew it probably." Have fun at the next company picnic, homey.
From The Archives Issue 1186: July 4, 2013