90FM Album Reviews: J. Cole – "Truly Yours"
Steven Woodward

Following the delay of his album, J. Cole has released a free 5-track EP entitled “Truly Yours” that will surely work to both curb frustration of fans and fuel their anticipation for the rapper’s sophomore release “Born Sinner”. Without the pressure to produce a radio-friendly jam, Cole’s “Truly Yours” EP finds Cole rapping over familiarly soulful, mellow beats and delivering the type of music that landed him the opportunity to become the first artist signed to Jay- Z’s Rocnation.
“Truly Yours” opens up with a poignant, nostalgic jazz number entitled “Can I Holla At Ya”. Over the course of just over four minutes, Cole addresses his feelings for an ex-love, his no-show father, and a friend he’s fallen out grace with. During the emotionally-charged highlight of the song, Cole’s normally boastful self gives way to tangible vulnerability, “And time revealed, she feels that she settled too soon/While she see me go for mines and she admire that/ We speak about time as if we could just buy it back/If only it was that simple/ damn I miss you”.
On “Can I Holla at You’s” jazzy counterpart, “Stay”, J. Cole bounces between pondering running from the law, the ethics on infidelity, and fleeing his hometown to pursue his rap career,consequently leaving his mother all alone. It’s a rather unfocused track, but it highlights Cole’s ability to draw his listeners in to his music, even if they’ve never had to contemplate fleeing the country to evade law enforcement.
“Tears for ODB”, an apparent ode to fallen Wu-Tang Clan member Old Dirty Bastard is the highlight of the EP. While only directly mentioning ODB in the first line, Cole evokes ODB’s name not to celebrate his life, but as a warning to those who may look up to and glorify the “hood life” ODB led. “Drug-induced poetry/What’s the use” Cole argues. Motivated by the perception he’ll never “know how sittin’ comfy on that Oprah seat feels “, Cole raps “I’m just tryna make it” on the chorus, continuing, “Straight up – aye, any chance I’ma take it”
J. Cole’s return to making music should appeal to even the most fickle of Hip-Hop fans. Hip-Hop is better when J. Cole is releasing music and “Truly Yours” acts only as an affirmation of this. Even when Cole finds himself rapping about hustling, as he does in the first verse of “Crunch Time”, he does it with an elegance and intelligence matched only by the likes of a Jay-Z or Nas. More impressive yet, Cole’s ability to story tell allows him to shift between bringing his listener’s from the point of view of a desperate hustler to the struggles of a single mother without lifting a finger or making his records feel forced. While most rappers would fear releasing an EP this strong months before the release of their actual album, Cole’s done just that, and if that isn’t an indicator of the great things to come from J. Cole and “Born Sinner”, I don’t know what is.