Remaining mostly silent since his last album in 2014, North Carolina rapper/producer J. Cole came out of nowhere and released one of the highest quality hip-hop records of the year. “4 Your Eyez Only” was released on December 9, 2016, debuting at number one on the Billboard 200 and once again, with no features. The album picks up where “2014 Forrest Hills Drive” left off as Cole dips into the topics of fatherhood, marriage, and gang violence. We listened closely to the new release and picked out the 10 best lyrics from “4 Your Eyez Only”.
1. Song: 4 Your Eyez Only
I pray you find a nigga with goals and point of views
Much broader than the corner, if not it's gon' corner you
Into a box, where your son don't even know his pops
And the cyclical nature of doing time continues
Here Cole shares his thoughts on the flaws of American prisons. J. Cole himself grew up fatherless, and here he states that when one grows up with their father imprisoned, the lack of guidance leads the child into a life of crime, eventually leaving them in the same positions as their fathers. He says that if one has “goals and point of views” then they will be able to avoid such a lifestyle, even without the father figure.
2. Song: Neighbors
Every nigga feel like a candidate
For a Trayvon kinda fate
Even when your crib sit on a lake
Even when your plaques hang on a wall
Even when the president jam your tape
During the recording of “4 Your Eyez Only,” Cole had rented out a large house in a wealthy neighbourhood in North Carolina. With cars pulling in and out of the driveway, groups of black males smoking blunts on the porch and loud music, the white suburban neighbors assumed one thing: drug dealers. The SWAT team was called and infiltrated the house, only to find a recording studio. These events became the theme for the song “Neighbors.” Cole states that even when living on a luxurious property, even after becoming an acclaimed rapper that even the president likes, he feels like he is still in danger. He says his fate could become that of Trayvon Martin, the 17-year-old who, in 2012, was shot and killed while unarmed and not posing any threat.
3. Song: Change
Yeah, prodigal son, got a new gun
This one don't run out of ammo
A popular topic for J. Cole’s recent material is his disbelief that money and fame will bring you happiness. The Prodigal Son is in reference to the New Testament of the Bible, where Jesus tells the story of a young man who finds wealth and leaves his family for a life of luxury. After spending all of his money and feeling empty inside, he begs his father for forgiveness to be let back into the family. Cole uses this story as an allegory for his own life by stating he has a “new gun” that doesn’t “run out of ammo”. He is ready to use his life story to teach people the true meaning of happiness, and share this through his music.
4. Song: Immortal
Have you ever seen a fiend cook crack on the spoon?
Have you ever seen a nigga that was black on the moon?
In this lyric, Cole talks about racial inequality in America. Creating the image of “a fiend cooking crack on the spoon” is meant to show how some underprivileged black people end up turning to a life of drugs. He then contrasts that image with that of someone “black on the moon,” which has never happened despite the 14 black men that have been astronauts with NASA. Reaching the moon has been called one of humanities greatest achievements, in which greatly inspired the American people when they first did it in 1969. Cole uses this analogy of having no African-American people reaching this level of success as a reason why many of them turn to a life filled with drugs or crime: they have no real role models to look up to as white Americans did in 1969.
5. Song: She’s Mine, Pt. 1
You shine just like the patent leather on my new 11's
You read me like a book like I'm the Bible, you the Reverend
On “She’s Mine, Pt. 1”, Cole discovers the love of his life and reveals how his relationship with her has given him new hope for life. He compares the light that this girl brings to his life like the shiny leather mudguard on the Air Jordan 11’s, a prestigious basketball sneaker. He compares his girl to a Reverend, stating she reads and understands him similarly to how a Reverend dedicates himself to the Bible.
6. Song: Foldin Clothes
Niggas from the hood is the best actors
Gotta learn to speak in ways that's unnatural
Just to make it through the job interviews
If my niggas heard me, they'd say
"Damn, what's gotten into you?"
Just trying to make it, dog, somehow
As Kendrick Lamar said, “Speaking language only we know, you think is an accent.” This line is in reference to the slang that African-Americans have developed, and how Cole believes it is an important part of black culture. He criticizes the mindset that slang is unprofessional and not tolerated in many work environments. He says that if he were to meet with any of his childhood friends, who remained speaking in slang while Cole had to speak differently to chase success, they would be judgmental.
7. Song: She’s Mine, Pt. 2
That make a killin' because they feed
On the wallets of the poor who be knockin' on they door
Every Black Friday just to get some shit they can't afford
Even with the discount, write a check, that shit bounce
But as long as we got credit, it don't matter, the amount
Cole criticisms the social norm of people in society using credit cards and going into debt to purchase things they cannot afford, using the popular sale shopping day “Black Friday”, to use. Cole tries to push a mentality of “if you buy a $1000 TV for $700, you didn’t save $300, you spent $700.” This is a mindset that Cole believes will better society and help the poor if we stop listening to advertisements and feeding into capitalism and consumerism.
8. Song: 4 Your Eyez Only
To see this is like the farthest thing from heaven
This is hell and I don't mean that hyperbolic
Life on earth is literally hell. Hell, by definition, is the place where condemned souls are sent as punishment after death, the opposite and farthest thing from heaven. Cole is saying that because of the things he has seen, like the injustice in the world and gruesome results of gang life, the life he is living must be in hell, as there is no way society now is anywhere close to our vision of a great life on earth like heaven.
9. Song: For Whom The Bells Toll
Bells getting loud, ain't nowhere to hide
Got nowhere to go, put away my pride
Tired of feeling low even when I'm high
Ain't no way to live, do I wanna die?
I don't know
The “bells getting loud” refer to Church bells which are rung when someone dies. The treatment of the African American people in America is unjust, it seems impossible to fight and not be a target. He states that even when he’s on drugs he feels the weight of sadness. He is even contemplating if he himself wants to die to escape the pains of life on earth.
10. Song: Deja Vu
But who in their right mind letting you out the house alone?
Tell me is your house a home?
Deja Vu tells the story of Cole encountering a girl at a nightclub. This girl already supposedly has a man, but Cole is questioning their relationship as she is going to the nightclub without him. He asks if her “house is a home,” meaning that he wants to know if this girl is truly in love with her man, and if they actually treat each other as if they were family.