New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

Review: J. Cole’s ‘Might Delete Later’ should be deleted

J. Cole dropped a small mixtape with a weak Kendrick Lamar diss and dispassionate bars.
Jermaine Lamarr Cole is an American rapper and record producer. (Courtesy of Parallel Agency)

Cole is considered to be one of the three legends of modern hip-hop, next to Kendrick Lamar and Drake. But his newest album, “Might Delete Later,” is probably the weakest in Cole’s discography. The singular strong point of this album is the production, and, as expected, Cole’s ear for instrumentals remains strong. 

Cole has clearly shown that he is a consistent artist with a superior ear for new talent with his own label, Dreamville Records. He’s known for hits “No Role Modelz” and “Wet Dreamz,” and released his most recent album “Might Delete Later” on April 5. As the album’s title suggests, Cole was unsure whether he wanted to keep this album on streaming platforms, and his intuition was correct. Many of the songs feel half-baked, and Cole’s diss track received backlash since fans knew he could do better.

Cole and Drake initially released “First Person Shooter” in October of last year. In the song, Cole says, “Love when they argue the hardest MC / Is it K-Dot? Is it Aubrey? Or me? / We the big three like we started a league, but right now, I feel like Muhammad Ali.” Metro Boomin, Lamar and Future’s responded in the song “Like That” with the line, “Motherfuck the big three, …, it’s just big me.” Now it was Cole’s turn to release a response, so he dropped “7 Minute Drill” — but the track fell flat. 

Even on the baseline, Cole’s opinions in the lyrics are wrong. He starts by detailing Lamar’s discography with “Your first shit was classic, your last shit was tragic / Your second shit put … to sleep, but they gassed it / Your third shit was massive and that was your prime.” The lyrics don’t hit their mark because the “shit” album in question, “To Pimp a Butterfly,” is regarded as one of the best hip-hop albums from the last 20 years.

Cole then rapped about his lack of desire to diss Kendrick, “I’m hesitant, I love my brother, but I’m not gonna lie / I’m powered up for real, that shit would feel like swattin’ a fly.” This line summarizes the song perfectly, where we have to listen to Cole’s lack of commitment to actually making a quality response to Lamar.

There were many strange and upsetting lyrics in the album like the transphobic one on “Pi,” where Cole says, “In cancel culture’s vicinity, he’s no killer, trust me / Beneath his chosen identity, there is still a pussy, period.” Because of Cole’s established prestige within his past lyricism compared to other rappers, fans hold his dialogue to a high standard — making his casual transphobia disappointing. This kind of lyric is surprising and disrespectful coming from an artist who emphasizes his lyricism. Cole is revered as a great in hip-hop due to his fast flows, superior wordplay and his adoption of the modern trap sound. This album differs completely from his reputation and stains it red. 

What attempts to save this album are its instrumentals, which captivates the listener. “Crocodile Tearz” has a nice piano loop and another haunting synth lead with banging 808s. “Stealth Mode” has wholesome soul vocals that lay a good foundation for the drill rhythm overall within the song. Still, the album is underwhelming. 

Cole is a skillful artist and has moved with nothing but tact throughout his career. But, this album was created from the pressures to get back at Lamar when, in reality, Cole’s heart was not committed to the response. Aside from the diss track, if Cole quietly unreleased this album, it would not be missed.

After its release, Cole called the diss track “the lamest shit I ever did in my fucking life” during his headline show at Dreamville Festival. Since then, the rapper has removed his album’s concluding song, “7 Minute Drill,” from streaming services.

Contact Antonio Johri at [email protected].

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