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4 Your Eyez Only

by J. Cole

Released December 9, 2016 via Dreamville Records / Roc Nation / Interscope Records

Reviewed December 9, 2021

Top tracks (based on community voting)
4 Your Eyez Only (67%), Change (47%), Neighbors (45%)

Every J. Cole album has its share of slaps, hits, and duds, and 4 Your Eyez Only is one of only a couple albums by the Dreamville commander to be put together in a fairly clean and concise format. What’s endearingly different about 4YEO from the start are the frantic emotions coursing through every facet of this album’s intro. “For Whom The Bell Tolls” foreshadows the jazzy influence on this album’s production, as well as the heartbroken perspective from which this story is written. With only 10 tracks, J. Cole provides a blend of singles and deep cuts to effectively service this album’s message and market it to the masses. This tracklist doesn’t come out unscathed––there are moments and entire songs that could stand to be thrown out––yet the album remains with enough pillar tracks to keep this project standing tall five years later. – DeVán (7.9/10)

Despite telling another man’s story, 4 Your Eyez Only was J. Cole’s most personal album to date. Cole weaves a tale about James McMillan Jr. into an album addressing love, death, and parts of his own life. He took baby steps on songs like “Wet Dreamz” and “Lost Ones,” but his first venture into a full-blown conceptual album shows his innate ability to tell a story. It is a hard swerve from 2014 Forest Hills Drive, the album that made him a mainstay. 2014, even when taking into account its positives, was more inoffensive and radio-friendly than anything. There were memorable moments, but it was exactly what was expected of Jermaine Cole. However, it seems this shift in direction was for the best. Up to then, his discography was home to a lot of less-than-stellar, bloated pop rap efforts that didn’t live up to Cole’s true potential. While the feeling that Cole can do better still remains, this is undoubtedly the best work in his discography, with career-defining songs such as “4 Your Eyez Only” and “Change.” – Alan (7.5/10)

For whatever reason, 4 Your Eyez Only is one of J. Cole’s most polarizing albums. It takes the brunt of many memes, especially with songs like “Foldin Clothes.” When the dust and laughter settles, we’re left with a truly great album. I understand the “disappointment” fans may have felt as Cole was following up the drop of the iconic 2014 Forest Hills Drive. While many rap fans have known Cole since his mixtape days, this album was arguably Cole’s second or third in the mainstream. With that in mind, Cole stayed true to his sound and didn’t try to conform to what he thought people wanted to hear. 4YEO is really a great project that does so much well. From songs like “Neighbors,” to “Immortal,” to “Deja Vu” this album has a song for everyone. “Foldin Clothes” and “Change” slow things down and make people reflect on their feelings. It’s okay to not love this album and all this being said, I definitely enjoy other records from Cole more. We get overcrowded in the association between enjoyment and good music, and 4YEO is unequivocally the latter. – Daniel (7/10)

Hadley: 8/10 | DeVán: 7.9/10 | Alan: 7.5/10 | Henny: 7.4/10 | Cam: 7.3/10

Pablo: 7.2/10 | Daniel: 7/10 | Dominick: 6.6/10 | Jared: 5/10 | Ben (Synth): 4/10


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