Anticipation is vital to a rappers release these days and it seems more and more that gimmicks, tricks and schemes are fast becoming a thing of the past when it comes to anticipation for Hip Hop albums. In a saturated era with weekly, almost daily drops, we revel around the long-awaited projects that come down the proverbial pipeline. Such goes the “much-to-do” surrounding the expectation the newest project, “The Off-Season”, by one Jermaine Cole. Undoubtedly one of the genres leading acts, Cole’s brand of Hip Hop has catapulted him to the forefront of the music scene and fans have patiently waited through three years and multiple teases for his latest offering.
The project begins with “95 South”, a nostalgia-filled intro with a set-up by Harlem’s own Killah Camron that immediately breaks Cole’s immaculate self-made mold of platinum collab-less albums. “Amari” hits next like and grabs listeners in with a trap inspired track featuring vocals by Cole that would be a perfect home for an artist like Future. Track 3, “My Life”, is receiving critical praise for the 21 Savage feature on a record that sounds like an alternate version of their 2018 smash collab “A Lot”.
The Off-Season comes at you as if it needs to say something and fans are appreciating the aggressive tone of Coles rhymes throughout the project, proclaiming him amongst the upper echelon of emceeing in 2021. His contemporaries would be wise to open their eyes and ears to the level of artistry displayed on the project. Even in it’s infancy of release, it tips terribly close to classic album territory, if only in Coles catalogue and it is no more apparent than in records like track 4, “Applying Pressure” and track 7, “Pride is the Devil”, featuring a league leading Lil Baby.
12 songs span 39 minutes and 14 seconds and while there may be skips in the future, it’s hard to identify which record will stand up as a weak link. Whether you are into J. Cole or not, it’s hard to deny the robustness of the project. Its rustically modern sound is just what was needed in the year of quarantine emergence. It speaks to growth and maturity, perfectly displayed on track 10, “The Climb Back” where he finally discusses his fabled altercation with Brother Love, A.K.A. Sean Combs, who even provides a prayer at the end of the record that also features Bas and 6LACK.
The Off-Season hits different. Definitely not worthy of such a hasty review in this etherium age, but such are the signs of the times. Things don’t happen without design in the Cole world and he has done more than enough on this project to rebuke the disrespect that recurs upon his name in hip hop. The album needs to be sat with as it’s not the usual Cole album by far when you dive into it, it does however, reign as the album to top in 2021. The pre-summer release may hurt its chances at album of the year but Cole doesn’t need a statue to tell him how nice he is. With his rumored retirement looming, maybe we should not be comparing him anymore and just enjoying what he does for the culture.
Stream The Off-Season here.