The J. Cole Breakdown by “Truly Yours” – @EmilyGabriele


Written by: Emily Gabriele

He was supposed to release the sophomore LP on January 28 – his birthday – but the release date got pushed back. So, what did J. Cole do to tide his fans over? He dropped a 5-song mixtape dubbed, “Truly Yours.”

Here’s my breakdown of the mini project’s tracks:

“Can I Holla At Ya”
The mixtape’s first track sets Cole’s raw and sincere tone for the entire project. Borrowing a beat from Lauryn Hill’s “To Zion” the track explores a retrospective mindset. A smooth guitar riff acts as a daunting component through track’s emotional journey. Cole reflectively speaks to figures of his past, consisting of an ex- girlfriend, a stepfather and a former friend. The track is extremely dark emotionally and serves as a precursor to the rest of the tape’s content.

Noteworthy lyric: “we speak about time as if we could buy it back/if only it was that simple/damn I miss you.

“Crunch Time”
Following suit to the first track’s brooding emotional vibe, “Crunch Time” is a narrative message that relays Cole’s empathy to struggling artists. He touches
upon the challenge of making monetary ends to meet all the while trying to deal with other obstacles in life. In the realm of this project, the track is fitting, yet it isn’t the standout song of the group.

Noteworthy lyric: “this is for n*ggas with indie dreams and empty jeans/still holding onto the word ‘maybe’/cause this 9 –to-5 shit is drivin’ you stir crazy

“Rise Above”
The most uplifting track of the bunch can be found on the number three spot of the tracklist. The first verse begins with the Cole describing a scenario where a single mother is being mistreated by an unfaithful boyfriend. He creates a vivid scene with his words, as per usual, and then preludes the hook with the lyric “you got to..[Rise, rise above].” The second verse talks about another struggling female, again Cole creates an intimate outline of a story with his lyrics. Ultimately the track can be viewed as a hopeful anthem for all females who are faced with adverse situations.

Noteworthy lyric: “she said she just finished school could barely pay tuition/now she teaches seventh grade trying to make a difference/hey but the kids frustrate her, say that they don’t listen:

“Tears For ODB”
Remember the kid with just a “dollar and a dream?” Well, just in case you forgot, this track is a reminder of the young rapper from “the ville” and his come up into the rap game. The first verse features boastful lyrics from J. Cole as he brags about his talent and how his music is unique and boundary breaking. As his lyrics unfold into the second verse, he speaks to a broad group of unnoticed rappers who are trying to “make it.” He reaches out to the realization that many wannabe rappers may end up taking criminal routes.

Noteworthy lyric: “but yet I still peddle this dope and these pills/I never know how sitting comfy in that Oprah seat feels/more than likely be on “most wanted” posters we still/holdin’ onto old dreams and being hopeful/be real”

“Stay (2009)”
Cole closes out the mixtape with another conscious rap track that includes a soulful instrumental with saxophone that heightens the song’s emotion. As far as lyrical content goes, it seems to be along the same subject matter as the rest of the project. Cole touches upon the emotions evoked from his life struggles and his rise to stardom in the hip-hop realm.

Noteworthy lyric: “oh but I’m coming back/oh boy believe that/to show the lil niggas, boy you can achieve that/got the city on my shoulders – piggyback/hello my name is Cole and I’m here to stay”