Since releasing his sophomore album, 2013's Born Sinner, J. Cole has become increasingly insular, shunning the bright lights and photo opps that come with fame and instead opting to operate behind the curtain. This order of operations is a rarity in today's out-of-sight-out-of-mind musical landscape. But J. Cole's reclusive ways work for him, as he toils in the shadows while building his Dreamville brand and tending to his family life.
More than a year after the release of his ambitious 2016 album 4 Your Eyez Only, J. Cole returns to the spotlight with another challenging body of work. Cole took to social media on Monday to announce the release of his fifth solo studio album KOD, a project that focuses on addictions, vices, the ills of self-medication and how to heal. He previewed the project for first-come-first-served audiences in Manhattan and London earlier this week, before teasing the Kamau Haroon-designed artwork on Wednesday and finally unveiling his new music to the world today.
Ever the cryptic MC, Cole took to Twitter yesterday to reveal the multiple meanings behind the KOD acronym: "KOD. 3 meanings. Kids on Drugs King Overdosed Kill Our Demons The rest of the album I leave to your interpretation."
As usual, J. Cole went for self on KOD—the only credited feature is kiLL edward, a mysterious voice that curiously sounds like a distorted Cole (some fans believe it's an alter ego).
After a couple of listens, XXL sifted through Cole's latest project to pick out 20 of the best lyrics.
"How I grew up, only few would've loved/'Member I got my first view of the blood/I'm hangin' out and they shoot up the club/My homie got pharmaceutical plug/I smoke the drug and it run through my vein/I think it's workin', it's numbin' the pain/Don't give no fuck and I'm somewhat insane/Don't give no fuck and I'm somewhat insane" —J. Cole
"Fell in love through a photograph/I don't even know your name/Wonder if you'd follow back/I hope to see you one day/I won't show my niggas now/I'II keep this one for myself/Love today's gone digital/And it's messing with my health" —J. Cole
"I know that vengeance is the Lord's and it's not for me/I know the punishment for you is that you not with me/You place your value on the bitches that you got with me/And now the bitches ask you daily 'Why you not with me?'/I had to cut some people off 'cause they was using me/My heart is big I want to give too much and usually/I send the bread and don't hear back for like two months now/You hit my phone, you need a loan, oh I'm a crutch now" —J. Cole
"Give me drink, give me smoke/Get me high, let me float/I'm a clown, coming down/Put me down, gentle now/Give me drink, give me dope/Bottom line, I can't cope/If I die, I don't know/I don't know, I don't know" —kiLL edward
"Without it I'm miserable/Don't wanna fall off so I'm all in my bag/Thankin' God like it's biblical/I know it's gon' solve every problem I have/I balled on them principles/Remember the teachers that was all on my ass/Now look all of them, pitiful/And all of a sudden I'm so good at math" —J. Cole
"Proceed with caution/I heard if you chase it only results in/A hole in your heart/Fuck it, I take the whole cake and I won't leave a portion/It's only an organ/Thank God mama couldn't afford the abortion/The loneliest orphan/I flipped my misfortune and grown me a fortune" —J. Cole
"I can't have no sympathy for fuck niggas/All this shit I've seen done made my blood thicker/Spill promethazine inside a double cup/Double up my cream, now that's a Double Stuff, yeah/Please don't hit my phone if it ain't 'bout no commas/Keep the peace like Dali Lama, big-body Hummers/Backin' out the parking spot and though the law be on him/He exempt, Shawn Kemp, he keep that .40 on him" —J. Cole
"Whoa, suddenly, I feel like takin' a PJ/Fly to D.R. on a weekday,/Eatin' ceviche/With like half of a milli' inside of my briefcase/A couple of freaks play/And they don't speak Inglés/But the money is somethin' that they could comprende/And I got bread like I'm Green Day" —J. Cole
"She my number one, I don't need nothing on the side/Said that I was done for good and don't want no more lies/But my phone be blowing up, temptations on my line/I stare at the screen a while before I press decline/But she plants a seed and it still lingers in my mind/Told myself I'm strong enough to shake it and I'm trying" —J. Cole
"Wanna have my cake and another cake too/Even if the baker don't bake like you/Even when the flavor don't taste like you/So I'm back mobbing with the late-night crew/All in your mind with fears that would come true/The back of my mind, the back of my mind was you/Wishing that I could blind myself from view/The only advice, the only advice for you" —J. Cole
"Slip me a xanny at once/I got the earth in a blunt/I get the skirt when I want/I get the skirt when I want/Due to the money aroma/My girl she got a diploma/She got wife written all over/She got wife written all over" —J. Cole
"Maybe 'cause the tax dollars that I make sure I send/Get spent hirin' some teachers that don't look like them/And the curriculum be tricking them, them dollars I spend/Got us learning about the heroes with the whitest of skin/One thing about the men that's controlling the pen/That write history, they always seem to white-out they sins/Maybe we'll never see a black man in the White House again/I'll write a check to the IRS, my pockets get slim" —J. Cole
"Better yet, let me decide, bitch, it's 2018/Let me pick the things I'm funding from an app on my screen/Better that than letting wack congressman I've never seen/Dictate where my money go, straight into the palms of some money-hungry company/That make guns that circulate the country/And then wind up in my hood, making bloody clothes/Stray bullet hit a young boy with a snotty nose/From the concrete, he was prolly rose" —J. Cole
"Once an Addict (Interlude)"J. Cole
"Fuck it though, a couple more months I'll be gone/Off to college and dorms/Foolin' myself, thinkin' problems are gone/But now it's 1 a.m. and my mama dialin' my phone/I know she intoxicated and soon this high that I'm on/Comes crashin' down/She lit, talkin' drunk shit, I'm pissed/But I'm still all ears like Basset Hounds/Thinkin' to myself, 'Maybe my mama need help/Don't she got work in the morning?/Why she do this to herself?'/Hate how she slurrin' her words/Soundin' so fuckin' absurd/This ain't the woman I know, why I just sit and observe?" —J. Cole
"Smoking medical grade, but I ain't got prescription/All the way in Cali where they ain't got precipi-/-tation, feeling like the only one that made it/And I hate it for my niggas 'cause they ain't got ambition/Fuck did you expect, you can blame it on condition/Blame it on crack, you can blame it on the system/Blame it on the fact that 12 got jurisdiction/To ride around in neighborhoods that they ain't ever lived in" —J. Cole
"Blame it on trap music and the politicians/Or the fact that every black boy wanna be Pippen/But they only got 12 slots on the Pistons/Blame it on the rain, Milli Vanilli with the disk skip/What I'm tryna say is the blame can go deep as seas/Just to blame 'em all I would need like 20 CDs/There's all sorts of trauma from drama that children see/Type of shit that normally would call for therapy/But you know just how it go in our community/Keep that shit inside it don't matter how hard it be" —J. Cole
"Window Pain (Outro)"J. Cole
"All I ever wanted was to hear them bitches holler back/Get some money plus respect and now look, I got all of that/All I wanna do is see my granny on the other side/All I wanna do is kill the man that made my momma cry/All I wanna do is touch a platinum plaque and celebrate/All I wanna do is keep my niggas out the yellow tape" —J. Cole
"Shootin' up where his granny live, blaow, blaow!, his granny duck/He don't give a fuck, he's on Henny and Xanny'd up/Blowin' Tammy up, 'Bitch, when you gon' give them panties up?'/He gon' plant a seed, but best believe he ain't man enough/Just because yo' dick can spray semen, it don't mean that you ready to let go of yo' childish ways/The results are deadly/Because that child will suffer and that's what can most affect me" —J. Cole
"1985 (Intro to 'The Fall Off')"J. Cole
"And plus, you havin' fun and I respect that/But have you ever thought about your impact?/These white kids love that you don't give a fuck/'Cause that's exactly what's expected when your skin black/They wanna see you dab, they wanna see you pop a pill/They wanna see you tatted from your face to your heels/And somewhere deep down, fuck it, I gotta keep it real/They wanna be black and think your song is how it feels" —J. Cole
"1985 (Intro to 'The Fall Off')"J. Cole
"I wish you good luck/I'm hoping for your sake that you ain't dumb as you look/But if it's really true what people sayin'/And you call yourself playin' with my name/Then I really know you fucked, trust/I'll be around forever 'cause my skills is tip-top/To any amateur niggas that wanna get rocked/Just remember what I told you when your shit flop/In five years you gon' be on Love & Hip-Hop, nigga" —J. Cole