I heard this album whilst walking in torrential rain. When it rains and I'm listening to music, I like to revel in a track's themes, its underlying meanings and how that affects and is evoked by the artist. "The Off-Season", J. Cole's first outing in three years, definitely speaks on many weighty themes but, in my rainy-day mood, I couldn't help but notice how hollow some of Cole's commentaries were. Musically, I felt that this record paralleled Cole's other works. I liked the sampling and production on this project for the most part; they were dealt with in a seamless and sleek fashion. In terms of Jermaine's flows, their chemistry with said strong production was inconsistent. On some tracks, he slides across the beat with a great understanding of aura and tone, but, on other occasions, there's a juxtaposition in the synergy that just makes J. Cole sound a little tone-deaf. Where his tone-deafness is on full display, however, is in the lyrics and their tone. As per usual, J. Cole aims to delve deep into his personal demons and struggles, but he always takes himself a little too seriously. He takes a route that states "this is serious and deep, take me seriously," which is all well and good, but he rarely has the pen game to match that statement. Songs like "pride is the devil" try so hard to be impactful that they just come out as tedious, hollow and flaccid, falling into many banal lyrical tropes along the way. J. Cole's "The Off-Season" shines in its production and occasional sleek flow, but ultimately falls short of the lyrical and thematic bar it expects itself to reach.
Best Tracks: 100 mil', i n t e r l u d e, the climb back
Worst Tracks: 95 south, pride is the devil, let go my hand