Album Review: J. Cole’s KOD Stays Grounded in a Cloud of Purple Smoke

A full-length examination of addictive behavior that gets wacky but never dull

J. Cole's KOD



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    The Lowdown: KOD dropped in a cloud of purple smoke on April 20th. The date was no accident, 4-20 being the time, day, and universal code for marijuana. But anyone expecting to light up and float away should be ready for a sour aftertaste. KOD is an album-length examination of addictive behavior, full of songs that start by celebrating a certain lifestyle and end with hurt, pity, and broken dreams.

    The Good: Well, there are the jokes, the flows, the sheer glorious musicality of it all, the beats that put a wiggle in your feet, and the hooks that start in the ear and spread to your throat until you’re shouting along with him. On KOD, through skill and ingenuity, J. Cole makes his voice sound like drums, pianos, woodwinds and brass — the whole damn band. It’s exhilarating.


    The Bad: If you’re sniffing around for bullshit, then stick that title up your nose — the meaning of KOD is given nowhere on the album, not even on the title track. In a teaser trailer online, Cole explained not one, not two, but three different meanings: those are Kids on Drugs, King Overdose, and Kill Our Demons. Now, did J. Cole create a layered, multi-platform experience, where you have to interact with artist, internet, and album to grasp his whole meaning? Or would the title be even better if you didn’t have to google it?

    The Verdict: On KOD, J. Cole is full of ideas, many thought-provoking, some half-baked, some baked as fuck. And sure, he’s not subtle. He doesn’t finesse his points; he douses them in gasoline and blows them up. And that’s great! We could all do with more fiery explosions in our music. Sometimes Cole gets wacky, but thankfully he’s never dull.


    Essential Tracks: “ATM”, “The Cut Off”, and “FRIENDS”

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