It’s been days since J. Cole deleted everything from his IG and put us all on notice, THE REAL IS BACK. And to ease speculation about the drastic marketing measure, his manager Ibrahim “Ib” Hamad tweeted a simple “Dreamville all 2019.” We knew then we were in for some heat.
Revenge of the Dreamers III. Aside from the ten-day social media frenzy that the Dreamville label wreaked on hip hop, both Cole and Hamad have been teasing us with snippets of new music from their Revenge of the Dreamers rap camp complete with one-liners detailing the amazing music that resulted from the sessions.
The first release since those cryptic messages to the public? MIDDLE CHILD. Text announcing the T-minus produced track is the only image that Cole posted after going ghost on IG and tonight, January 23rd at 9 pm we are giving you our thoughts on the new track.
However, there are a few stipulations we have put on this review. It’s a pass through. First Reaction. One Listen. Gut check. In this world of instant gratification and instant feedback we don’t want to keep you waiting, and while the song will stay on repeat for days after this, we figured we would have some fun with the release. Why not? Cole is!
Now you’ll remember, this is not the first time Cole and Grammy award-winning, T-Minus, have teamed up. The duo created the smash single Kevin’s Heart which peaked at No. 8 on the Billboard Hot 100 with over 76 million Spotify streams to date. Let’s hear if the duo successfully recreates the magic they created with Middle Child:
First 30 seconds: Horns Intro. OKAY!!
45 sec.: J. Cole is not wasting the beat at all, he is riding the beat nicely. Drizzy shout out! (Anyone else get a flash of their Ghosty no Casper moment?)
1 min.: J. Cole is nixing all thoughts about comparing him to other rappers.
1 min. 30 sec.: Cole thanks legends. Chorus and bridge is brash although not out of the ordinary.
2 min.: There are some vocal effects on Cole’s voice is seems like. Sing-songy/melodic flow.
2 min. 30 sec.: Cole talks to the youth of hip hop and shows empathy and sympathy for them here using Kodak as reference.
3 min. to end:“Pistol in your hand don’t make you real,” line sticks out. The beat fades out nicely.
Last thoughts: I am feeling the production. It sounds like horns throughout and gives you a championship, cocky vibe, like this is something a winner walks out to when they are about to box. It can also put you in mind of a Drake track, which given the T-Minus production that is not a far fetched assumption.
The flow provides range; Cole expertly demonstrates amazing breathe control as usual, but in some instances it may be at the expense of the beat. Cramming too many words into each bar, there are times when Cole fails to let the beat breathe and it forces the listener to keep up which can be annoying as a listener. However, Cole is seamlessly going in and out of spitting and singing, being a little more melodic at some times than others. I am not feeling the vocal effects that are reminiscent of auto tune at times.
As far as the content, it’s heavy. All of you “Cole is boring” band wagoners may want to pay attention. Beginning with a T-Minus shout out, Cole jumps around from topic to topic, shouting out the reigning titans that he started in the game with. He specifically mentions Drake and thanks him for his generous gift. He also makes a point to dead any talk of competition or comparison for anything other than the sport of rap. So for those who like to use rap as a gimmick for sales you got the wrong one. YES, we caught the sneaker shot Cole, (checks over stripes, anyone?).
Personally, Cole makes mention of his financial situation. He gives us the “ain’t no fun if the homies can’t have none” vibe. That lets you know that he is still human and is always looking out for his day ones and real friends regardless of their financial situation. What good is all that money if you can’t share it, right?
The NC native also shouts out Jay Z, his mentor and the top slot on a lot of top five lists concerning rap greats. This is significant because of the J. Cole and Jay Z history. Because the rapper now owns his masters he has the power to control distribution outside of Roc Nation.
While business is business and Tidal, Apple, and Spotify all contribute to Cole’s streams, it is important that we hear where Cole’s loyalty still lies personally. Then he seamlessly transitions into talking to or about the youth, the current hip-hop generation, using rapper Kodak Black as the poster child for those who Cole knows literally and figuratively struggling to come up. He sounds understanding, making mention of the system.
This is a stance that some may find surprising after the scathing Lil Pump diss on KOD. Especially because he is mentioning a young new rapper by name. He sounds like he wants us as a community to do better at being a village and raising our young men. Like a big brother, Cole will check you but love you at the same time.
I am sure I missed more than a lot. And I will be honest it is probably something you have to listen to a couple of dozen times to get a read on the track as a whole. At first listen this is a solid record not life altering, but not disappointing.
A lot of times artists and producers chase a ghost of what worked for them in the past. In doing so, they fail miserably at creating a new sound and elevating. Middle Child is something utterly different than Kevin’s Heart so you cannot possibly compare the two. This will work out in your favor because you can listen to the track for what it is not a previous release. For the first drop of 2019 from Dreamville this is good.