Cam’ron was a nice touch to introduce Cole on the album since it’s a basketball themed album, Cam is a former baller turned rapper. Cole’s opening statement on the album is “this shit is too easy for me now”. He goes on to hit a few clever punchlines “Could put a M right on your head, you Luigi brother now”. You get the the impression from “95 South” that Cole is in competitive mode and wants to show why he’s better than other rappers.
The next two songs “Amari” and “My Life” featuring 21 Savage narrates as a started from the bottom triumphant type story which doesn’t quite resonate as Cole is a 10 season veteran, dropping his 6th #1 album and he’s a multi millionaire label owner with established artist signed to his imprint.
In applying pressure Cole seems to have a point to prove. He once again references his 08 days. So far in the album Cole is in competitive mood. It’s unclear if he’s competing with his peers (the Drakes of this world) or his qualm is with upcoming rappers. We are yet to hear life from the perspective of a label owner who has artist like RnB songstress Ari Lennox signed to him.
“Punching the clock” and “100 million” sound like mixtape songs. The start of the album feels like Cole going through midlife crisis. He’s made a 100 million and now he could afford to just rap or join a basketball team at will. When Cole and his fans say the real is back you’ve got to wonder if they mean a “real rapper” or “real person” because in truth the average person can’t relate to Cole. Not many people can afford the luxury of just walking around care free and joining a sports team at will. In reality at the half way point this album comes across as idealistic rap rather than one with a poignant inspirational message which the audience have come to expect from the rapper. The first half of the album was a bit underwhelming, conceptually lazy and uninspired.
Into the second half of the album, “Pride is the devil” is the best song so far. It carries a real poignant message, Cole is self reflecting and we begin to hear his truth. It is a fitting song for lil baby to cameo because of the songs melodic nature. However, you feel like you just wanted to hear Cole continue to open up by himself, since this is the first chance of introspection on the album, we begin to get a glimpse at his soul.
“Let Go My Hand” continues the path of introspection where he reflects on his sons future. At this point the album is beginning to sound a bit more sincere. Cole reflects on a fight he had a few years back with his one time idol puff daddy. He says a prayer at the end which is interesting because he mentions in the song “I dibble-dabble in a few religions” so it’s unclear which God he’s praying to. The song chorus is reminiscent of “Soon you’ll understand” by his mentor Jay z. “The interlude” has a nice melodic flow. Cole continues to make religious observations about Christ, comparing his death at 33 to Nipsey Hussle’s death at the same age, playing on the messiah-like street status Nipsey gained after his demise.
“The Climb Back” goes back to lyrical Cole. This song has a classic Hiphop feel reminiscent of MC’s like ‘Cannibus’. Personally, this is the best song on the album. Besides the share lyricism Cole ends the song with a thought provoking message “Everybody mentions 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? Need a number for my niggas to call Whenever there’s a urge to get triggers involved”. “The Climb Back” is followed by “Close” which is lyrically very well executed with Cole narrating a story of a friends demise.
The instrumentation and execution of the last song “Hunger On Hillside” is dope. It’s the best musical composition on the album. It almost feels like this is the midway point of the album; and the album is just ready to kick off but sadly NO, this is the last song on the album.
The second half of the album is meaningful and saves the project, preserving Cole’s status as a sound rapper. Over all the album leaves much to be desired from the seasoned rapper with a huge reputation.
By Kwasi Addo