Forest Hills Drive Review

J. Cole returns with his third major label album, 2014 Forest Hills Drive, which pays homage to his childhood home.

What I love most about this album is that it goes against everything we’ve come to expect from an album. There was no promotion for this project, which didn’t leave fans anticipating and waiting. Cole didn’t even announce that an album was coming, it just arrived. There was no single, in fact, there was nothing from Forest Hills Drive on the Internet. So when it finally did leak, the world was able to hear the whole thing at once, for the first time. That’s a rare thing to happen for today’s listeners. It was refreshing.

By staying away from the predictable album process, J. Cole just delivered a really good album, and possibly my favorite album of 2014. As you listen to Forest Hills Drive, you can hear the continuity flow through each record. It wasn’t pieced together with songs that are aiming to become popular, and because of that, we’re left with one cohesive body of work.

The album is filled with soulful production and heartfelt lyrics. There’s an unspoken message that travels throughout Forest Hills Drive: by removing the mainstream sounds, cliche singles, and predictable structure of an album—he has found a sweet spot, a place that sounds small but big at the same time. It’s as if the band that became rock stars decided to go back to the garage where they recorded their first demo tape.

★★★★☆


Update:

I wanted to share two other people’s opinions on the album. They both have good taste and knowledge with music, so sharing these will only help this post:

Richard Jones: My take on J. Cole’s new Album: Better than Born Sinner, because it’s more soulful. It’s a great album, but FNL was a Classic Mixtape.”

Anthony Fantano (The Needle Drop): his video review of the album was incredible, and I consider it a must-watch. The first part of this video breaks down Cole’s discography so far, and even mention’s why J. Cole doesn’t carry the same depth as an artist like Kendrick Lamar. This review goes through each song on the album, while Anthony explains in great detail (as he usually does) why he feels the album is underwhelming.