By Grant Golden
July 22, 2020
North Carolina’s rap-titan J. Cole, has released two new tracks from his forthcoming album The Fall Off. Cole took to social media on Tuesday, July 21, to reveal a highly anticipated update for his upcoming album. While there’s “no date for the album yet,” Cole tweeted, “taking my time, still finishing,” he did confirm that on the evening of July 22, he’d be premiering two songs off the upcoming record, “The Climb Back” and “Lion King on Ice,” respectively self-produced by Cole, and produced by Cole, T-Minus, and Jetson.
The Climb Back – produced by me.
Lion King on Ice – produced by J. Cole, T-Minus, and Jetson. First 2 songs from The Fall Off. Dropping tomorrow night 10pm. No date for the album yet, taking my time, still finishing. ❤️
🧗🏾♂️🧗🏾♂️🧗🏾♂️ x 🦁🦁🦁 pic.twitter.com/b7h0fowVPp
— J. Cole (@JColeNC) July 21, 2020
While Cole has famously self-produced a large amount of his records and has damn near turned “no features” into a meme, he’s no stranger to co-producing. T-Minus helmed “Kevin’s Hart” from 2018’s KOD and “Middle Child” from the Dreamville compilation album Revenge of the Dreamer’s III, whereas Jetson is best known for his work with Charlotte rapper DaBaby on tracks like “Bop” and “Suge.”
Fans have been anxiously awaiting a new record since Cole hinted at The Fall Off with the closing track from KOD, “1985,” but Cole hasn’t been entirely out of the musical spotlight this summer. In June, Cole dropped his track “Snow on tha Bluff,” which sparked allegations of misogyny against rapper Noname. Cole didn’t call out specific names, but referenced a female rapper’s “wokeness” and chastised her for how she interacts with followers on the internet in a “holier than thou” attitude. “Snow on tha Bluff” sparked a response track from Noname, “Song 33,” produced by Madlib and seemingly dismissing Cole’s criticism in favor of shining light on the country’s constant injustices.
As “The Climb Back” opens we hear a vocal sample posing the question, “are you doing this work to facilitate growth or become famous?” Cole wastes no time in cutting through the tension, proclaiming “this is that come back to life shit” as he proceeds to traverse through his rags to riches career trajectory. While the beat remains fairly static, Cole keeps a fluid flow, never settling into one cadence for too long, keeping the listener anticipating his every word and how he’ll bend these phrases into new and complex rhythms. Cole closes out “The Climb Back” with hard hitting sincerity, “everybody mention suicide prevention, man they even made a hotline / to call up when there’s tension, but I got a question / what about a fuckin’ homicide?”
“Lion King on Ice,” benefits in waves from his collaborators, and while “The Climb Back” may be packed more tightly with introspection and nuance, “Lion King…” counters it perfectly with Jetson’s booming 808’s and sizzling hi-hats. Cole still feels like he’s got grit on these tracks, and the distorted, bass-heavy kicks help to convey that unfettered determination. Cole raps like he’s fighting for supremacy in the rap game as he proclaims “I got blood on my hands, I ain’t gone lie / I got mud on my shoes, I ain’t gone lie / I got real real big plans, I ain’t gone lie / Got a whole lot to prove, I ain’t gone lie.”
On Monday, Cole also contributed a lengthy personal essay to Derek Jeter’s media outlet The Players’ Tribune. In the essay, “The Audacity,” Cole outlines his dreams of college basketball stardom leading to a potential NBA career, and the internal struggle he’s felt while simultaneously building his career as a rapper for the past decade. Cole’s essay outlines his dedication to the craft he loves and the struggle that comes with continued motivation towards pushing forward to the top of the mountain.
With whispers of pending retirement on the way and a lengthy essay on a desire to still pursue basketball, there’s been questions on where Cole goes from here. While that future may still remain cloudy, Cole’s made his present intentions clear, cementing his status as the self-proclaimed GOAT…and probably with no features.