Tuesday 9 April 2024

Review of 'Might Delete Later' by J Cole

Cole's pen remains sharp, but the songs don't cut it.

Is it 'later' yet? I better get this review published just in case. For those who haven’t heard, Cole and Kendrick (and Drake) are currently engaged in a beef. It wasn’t meant to be like this. J Cole and Kendrick were supposed to drop a collab album. That’s what us fans wanted! But instead, Kendrick has evidently got bored and decided to choose violence. ‘Fuck the big three’ Kendrick declared on a guest verse of Future’s ‘Like That’ two weeks ago (the ‘big three’ referring to him, Cole and Drake), ‘it’s just big me’.

This diss has got hip hop fans fiercely debating the question: who is the best artist in the ‘big three’? Is it Drake (nope)? Is it Kendrick? Or is it Cole?

Cole’s new surprise album is his chance to prove that he’s the GOAT. Does he succeed? Unfortunately, not. This may be the worst album Cole has ever put out. It’s still not a bad album relatively speaking. But by Cole’s standards, it’s pretty mid.

The problem isn’t so much the flows or the bars. I mean, they’re not as exciting as the flows and bars on The Off-Season, but we still get tracks like ‘H.Y.B’ where Cole is dancing over the beat and spitting witty puns about epi-pens and reciting the alphabet while deliberately missing out the ‘L’.  The hints of a trans fella’ bar on ‘Pi’ is admittedly a bit dodgy. But then so was Kendrick’s f-bombs on ‘Auntie’s Diaries’.

The real issue with this album comes down to artistry. As I mentioned in my review of The Off-Season, Kendrick approaches hip hop as an art, whereas Cole approaches it as a sport. Cole is the more technically impressive rapper of the two, but Kendrick makes more entertainingly creative songs. And that is what’s lacking on Might Delete Later, more so than The Off-Season – entertaining songs that take risks. There are no inventive song themes here or slightly wacky hooks that stick. And although some songs like ‘Trae The Truth In Ibiza’ have beautiful production, it’s not the type of production that wows you because it doesn’t take any unexpected turns.

The final track does spice this album up, even if it was likely shoehorned in last minute. This is the track in which Cole responds to Kendrick. You can tell Cole’s heart isn’t in it and his claim that To Pimp A Butterfly is a boring album comes off as downright delusional. That said, ‘your arms might be too short to box with the god’ is a savage bar. Plus, this is the only song on the album that actually features a beat switch.

Overall, Might Delate Later is likely to be a lot more entertaining than many other major rap albums released this year. But it’s not the quality we’re used to expecting from Cole. The timing of it is both fortunate and unfortunate. It’s fortunate because, given the beef, everyone will be giving this album a listen and earning Cole plenty of streaming revenue. It’s unfortunate for Cole because he's also proven Kendrick right and given him plenty of fresh ammo for a rebuke.