A music aficionado with a knack for writing. A die-hard hip-hop fan who enjoys boom-bap beats and bars.
Album Cover for “The Off-Season.”
Album Review: “The Off-Season”
Jermaine Cole’s sixth studio album, The Off-Season, is one of the most enjoyable albums he has released in recent years, in my opinion—most likely because I did not enjoy his 2018 release, KOD, due to the production and his overly introspective persona. Cole, on the other hand, sounds like he’s having a good time practicing and perfecting his craft on his latest release, and it’s an enthralling experience for me as a listener.
Cole rediscovers the hunger and drive he had on his earlier projects on The Off-Season, and it’s remarkable to see. He’s demonstrating how he’s earned the respect of his peers, including Eminem, who praised Cole’s lyrical abilities, saying that most rappers can’t lyrically reach the level Cole and Lil Wayne have reached. I felt the hunger of youth resurface with the release of Lewis Street, a two-song EP due out in 2020 as a teaser to The Off-Season, and the amazing “L.A Leakers” freestyle he did while promoting the album. This is further supported by his storytelling abilities, which, as “Close” demonstrates, are still razor-sharp. The Off-Season is easily the most technically impressive album the young hip-hop legend has ever released, jam-packed with brilliant punch lines, double entendres, and wordplay to last a lifetime. I was hoping that he would continue in that vein on his next album, and he did not disappoint.
On each of the tracks on which they were featured, the guest artists added a different atmosphere and a refreshing sound, which added to the album’s overall appeal. The inclusion of features on the album was refreshing because it diverged from Cole’s previous albums’ vastly monotonous path. Other artists featured on the project included Bas, Morray, Lil Jon, and 6lack, and the features seemed to bring out the best in Cole. Leading trap artists 21 Savage and Lil Baby made cameo appearances on the tracks “My Life” and “Pride Is the Devil,” respectively, and held their own against Cole admirably. On The Off-Season, J. Cole took a different approach by including guest artists, something he hadn’t done since his second studio album, Born Sinner, was released in 2013.
J.Cole’s rap delivery and execution have always been impressive, and on The Off-Season, he takes it to the next level. Dare I say it, he’s trying to revive the competitive nature of the rap scene, which has been largely dormant since at least 2018, though he’s not taking Kendrick Lamar’s “Control” verse route to do so. Cole is sending a strong message to the entire rap scene with The Off-Season, stating that he is hungry as ever and that his rhyming skills are only getting better. His competitive spirit, which is what hip-hop is all about, is evident in the confidence and braggadocio attitude he exudes while rapping on this album. On tracks like “95 South,” he uses a variety of vocal patterns to deliver his verses, which adds to the enjoyment of the album. His bars are delivered with the assurance of a seasoned rapper.
The majority of the tracks on the album are beautifully produced and will immediately capture the listener’s attention. However, some tracks, such as “100 mil,” have production that simply does the job and does not add a unique feel to the project, while others, like “Punchin’ the Clock,” have production that sounds cliché and dated. The production team could have done a better job in this regard. Cole’s production team, which included Boi-1da, Timbaland, Jake One, and T-minus, among others, worked tirelessly on this album.
Official Music Video for “Amari” To Sum It Up
Cole raps “This sh*** can go one or two ways / This sh*** can go up, it can go down / Either way, n****, I’m prepared” in the single “interlude.” That verse sums up the fact that he is fully aware that the path he is taking is a significant step in his development as a rapper and as an artist, and he is fully prepared for what it will bring. He found the perfect balance, in my opinion, as he transitioned into his prime years as a rapper. The Off-Season marks a watershed moment in Cole’s career, as he attempts to strike a balance between the new wave of hip-hop and the lyrical brilliance of the era of rap that he grew up on, as he follows in the footsteps of his idols Nas, Biggie, and Jay Z.
The Off-Season, which lasts less than 40 minutes, reveals a side of Jermaine Cole we’ve probably never seen before, a more enjoyable version of Cole perfecting his craft rather than trying to school the listener in his mindset as he did on previous albums. Hopefully, this is just a taste of what’s to come in the future. The Off-Season is a breath of fresh air in J.Cole’s discography, with a lot of replay value.
The Off-Season is available for purchase on Amazon here.
“Amari,” “95 South,” and “Hunger on the Hillside” are essential tracks.
The Album Rating for “Off-Season”
This information is correct and true to the best of the author’s knowledge, but it is not intended to replace formal, individualized advice from a qualified professional.