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Spin: J. Cole’s Starry Eyes vs. Phonte’s Long View

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J. Cole’s album: Not that bad! I know, I know, that’s pretty low stakes and all, but we’re getting back to this point now where there’s a big cognitive dissonance between what rap nerds—even so-called “populist” rap nerds—are willing to big-up or shit man, at least accept, and what regular ass fans are fucking with. Also see: Lil Wayne’s Tha Carter IV. There’s a reason people like these albums and there’s a reason they like this Cole character. Nobody’s been hoodwinked here! That said, I don’t see where Cole’s career goes after this and he’s gonna have to get a little cynical and real and take some tips from someone like Phonte if he’s going to be kicking around in a decade or even like, two years from now. Also that Phonte album: Really fucking good. Better than it needs to be.

Phonte Coleman, one half of electronic R&B duo the Foreign Exchange, and formerly of defunct Durham, North Carolina, rap group Little Brother, declares at the start of his solo debut Charity Starts At Home: “I do this all for hip-hop.” Then he pauses and laughs, “I’m lying like shit, I do this for my goddamn mortgage.”

The album title makes clear that lofty goals like changing the world, one conscious rhyme at a time, have been replaced with something more practical. Phonte’s excellent, poignant album is paradoxically focused on decidedly un-hip-hop things: Getting older, realizing rap doesn’t move him too much anymore, the fuck-ups of family and friends, having a wife and kids and lots of bills…

Written by Brandon

October 5th, 2011 at 4:52 am

Spin: J. Cole’s Friday Night Lights


I reviewed J. Cole’s Friday Night Lights mixtape for Spin’s website and it’s close to excellent but well, really annoying too. I’ve not really talked about J. Cole at all, so I’ll use this brief review as an excuse to talk about the guy, so here goes…

Friday Night Lights kept reminding me of Krit Wuz Here and not in a good way. The differences between Big K.R.I.T and J. Cole are non-existent. Both guys are very good at rapping, but are better producers, but are a little too good at rapping for anybody to reasonably tell them to stick to beatmaking, so they go on and inexplicably, they’re seen as the second coming of this or that. Both are insightful, empathetic rappers too willing to martyr themselves and shamelessly promote and mythologize their struggle.

When I listen to both of their album-like mixtapes, I enjoy it for awhile and then feel the need to start skipping around or my head’ll just explode from all the East Coast lyricism meets Southern rap melodicism masquerading as that new, new shit. Next. The only difference really, is that Big K.R.I.T happens to indulge in a lot more ignorance, which makes him “cooler” and more appealing in the contrarian rap nerd circles I run in. J. Cole’s actually better though.

Written by Brandon

December 20th, 2010 at 5:07 am

Posted in J. Cole, Spin