Review Roundup: J. Cole – ‘Cole World: The Sideline Story’

Cole World: The Sideline Story

After a two-year wait and mounting expectations, Jay-Z’s 26-year-old protégé J. Cole gets off the bench and steps into the spotlight with his Roc Nation debut Cole World: The Sideline Story, in stores today. The North Carolina MC assembles an all-star team of talent including Jay-Z, Missy Elliott, Drake, and Trey Songz on the 16 tracks. Does the hip-hop freshman have what it takes to play in the big leagues? The critics weigh in.

Rolling Stone: He’s a technically superb rapper, packing these sleek, snappy, mostly self-produced tracks with dozens of great punch lines. But while he tries to wring pathos out of everything from career struggles to unplanned pregnancies, the melodrama feels rote; the rhymes hit the mark but the stories leave you cold. 3.5/5

Entertainment Weekly: Bigger names in hip-hop have released albums this year, but few trump this debut. Cole, who’s been studying under label head Jay-Z for two years, seems to have learned plenty. Cole World: The Sideline Story is a well-rounded effort, and deeper than most, offering cuts that tackle unplanned pregnancy (“Lost Ones”) and uncertain love (“Nobody’s Perfect”). B+

USA Today: After waiting nearly two years for his mainstream debut, Jay-Z’s protégé shoulders the weight of expectations with a confident first effort. The North Carolina rapper tells his story of struggle and triumph with incisive rhymes over soulful beats that, for the most part, Cole produced himself. 3/4

The New York Times: Cole World captures the struggle between Mr. Cole’s natural gifts and the perceived exigencies of the marketplace. On this album he’s a slick rapper who spends too much time shouting and a thoughtful rapper who wears his bawdiness awkwardly.

Los Angeles Times: Even opposite Jay-Z in “Mr. Nice Watch” J. Cole sounds assured of his skills—and of the uncommon detail he brings to an otherwise familiar rags-to-riches narrative. But J. Cole’s early-onset veteran status also saps some of the energy you’d hope to hear on a debut as feverishly anticipated as this one, especially in cuts like “Never Told.” 2.5/4

The Washington Post: Cole is a deft rapper, clever but not obsessed with his own cleverness, interested in au courant beats but not fixated on them. There’s nothing particularly dramatic about his debut—it’s simply a better version of albums that get made all the time. Cole makes good songs almost great, and makes filler tolerable.

The Boston Globe: The story goes that Jay-Z told Cole he had his whole life to make his debut album. Cole may have taken that literally, but it was worth it.

Rap-Up’s Favorite Tracks: “Can’t Get Enough,” “Sideline Story,” “Nobody’s Perfect,” “Breakdown”



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59 Comments

  1. W

    Loved the album. Nobodys perfect should of been longer tbh

    [Reply]

    isabella! Reply:

    @W, i like that song, i already got my copy and imo i wish that missy had put a verse on it instead, along with already singing the hook

    [Reply]

  2. sabrina

    Cole World

    [Reply]

  3. shegotit

    I love this album. I would give it a 4/5.

    [Reply]

    StarsRblind Reply:

    @shegotit, You’d be right along with the rest of the critics.
    4/5 = 80/100… It’s basically a bunch of B’s and C’s.

    [Reply]

  4. Ronnie Ron

    I don’t think its 19 tracks Rap-Up. Its 16 tracks plus 2 itunes bonus but album is great get a 4/5, would get a perfect 5 if he left in the morning on FNL. My fav lost ones,rise and shine, god’s gift and da rest of da album Lol

    [Reply]

  5. Trina

    It’s ight. Could’ve been better considering the length of time he had to complete the album

    [Reply]

  6. flawda

    The LA TIMES review is straight trash, if J Cole was ten shades lighter and name Eminem they would of given the album 4 stars and god knows his music is straight pop gimmick.

    How is Lost One’s tolerable? smh

    4/5 rating album easilly

    [Reply]

    ldn girl Reply:

    @flawda, totally agree on the lost one diss. that song is the modern day brenda’s got a baby and stan.

    the album is different to what i was expecting. ilove sidelines, “wish somebody made guidelines on how to get out the sidelines”- Never a truer word spoken

    [Reply]

    Kyle Reply:

    @flawda, I remember they gave Eminem’s “Relapse” 1/4 stars and Eminem said in an interview that he was pissed off when he saw that, lol.

    [Reply]

  7. The Truth

    It kind of sucked

    [Reply]

    Sqwill Reply:

    @The Truth, actually listen to it and dont skim thru it, im assuming your a big Wayne fan and i like Wayne too but Jcole’s lyrics and beats are 90% self made and actually speak about real life and is relateable to the average person

    [Reply]

  8. Nina

    This album is fire he poured his heart out #ColeWorld baby aint nothing sunny.. Love You Jermaine

    [Reply]

  9. martin

    I really enjoy this album especially the side line story interlude and the side line story. All in all its a must listlen. 4/5

    [Reply]

  10. The Truth

    Compared to Jay-Z’s, Kanye’s, Eminem’s first albums, it was really boring. I don’t feel J. Cole, he just overrated.

    [Reply]

    Vickthur Reply:

    @The Truth, ha but they’re all legends. J. Cole still good.

    [Reply]

    JG Reply:

    @The Truth, word, a debut should rock the game, this is just average

    [Reply]

  11. Brionna

    Friday Night light>>>>>>>>> cole world
    very disappointed; he’s still the homie tho
    ok album at best 3/5

    [Reply]

  12. Brionna

    Cole is a GREAT rapper but he didn’t right with this album…this album is going to be some ppls first time hearing cole and this album is not a good representation of his skill imo

    [Reply]

  13. otis

    Third best album of the year so far, Drake ur up next see what u do with it. but WTT still the best Album i heard this year

    [Reply]

    YUNG Reezy Reply:

    @otis,
    1. WATCH THE THRONE
    2. THE R.E.D. ALBUM
    3. COLE WORLD: THE SIDELINE STORY
    4. HELL: THE SEQUEL
    5. THA CARTER IV
    BOOK
    DRIZZY YOU NEXT, I CAN SEE YOU EASILY NO. 2 IN MY

    [Reply]

    King Reply:

    @YUNG Reezy, u forgot kendrick lamar section 80. and c4 is terrible

    [Reply]

    bfbf Reply:

    @YUNG Reezy, i agree with your list but i would put cole world before the r.e.d album. I am sure jay z will be happy with watch the throne and cole world.

    [Reply]

    saio Reply:

    @YUNG Reezy, dude you forget lupe “Lasers” & wiz khalifa “Rolling Papers”
    next on the list is Drake & Yellawolf

    [Reply]

    Joe Reply:

    @otis,

    1. Watch the Throne
    2. Lasers
    3. Sideline Story
    4. Carter IV
    5. None worth mentioning.

    [Reply]

  14. jason23

    I agree @otis. but dude shoulda had better producers tho cause his ass can’t make beats so next time holla at ye or timbo

    [Reply]

  15. Hip Hop Veteran

    Cole offered something new to the game. We got the opportunity to observe, first hand, his progression from College to the mainstream. He expressed his pain, he showed us the grind and we saw the evolution. It was all real.

    To those that say he is overrated, I dare you to rate someone above him right now! To those that say his album doesn’t compare with the greats, consider that we have the benefit of hindsight, and all the musicians listed above by @The Truth have had grown on us over the years. I’m sorry but if Em just had Infinite, or if Kanye just had College Dropout to his name it certainly would be a different story.

    [Reply]

    King Reply:

    @Hip Hop Veteran, i agree but infinite wasnt EM’s first mainstream official album but i see wat ur sayin

    [Reply]

    hiphopkin Reply:

    @Hip Hop Veteran, you said who right now is better than J Cole? Jay Electronica is the best upcomming artist in the game IMO, he has true originality and potential for a legend status. His album will be a classi and, if these magazines know their hip hop, will be rate highly. J Cole is cool, i bump his stuff and I liked the album. But to me he is just another nice punchline artist. His delivery is good, his rhyme scheme excellent, he has so many lines some just come off lousy. A new and improved upgrade to Drake.

    [Reply]

  16. Hip Hop fanatic

    Album deserves a 4/5. There are some amazing and very deep tracks on the album(Lost ones, Breakdown etc). The only disappointing thing for me was that the ‘commercial’ songs he tried to make isn’t very good at all.

    All in all though, a solid first attempt from a rapper who is sure to be a great one day…The interesting thing now will be what J.cole’s new focus will be now that he’s ‘off the sideline’

    [Reply]

    Ronnie Ron Reply:

    @Hip Hop fanatic, i would have to disagree. work out is growing in popularity and can’t get enough and nobody’s perfect has the potential to be a smash

    [Reply]

    Ronnie Ron Reply:

    @Hip Hop fanatic, i would have to disagree, work out is growing in popularity, can’t get enough and nobody’s perfect has da potential to be a smash

    [Reply]

  17. martin

    I agree with Hip Hop Veteran And Hip Hop Fanatic.

    [Reply]

  18. 3ammadness

    @martin,
    I co-sign w/ all of y’all!
    I bought my copy & I’m pleased.

    [Reply]

  19. pArallel-intersect

    its an album to forget…..

    [Reply]

  20. daniel

    breakdown and rise and shine. handsdown best songs on album. breakdown- so deep.

    [Reply]

  21. pArallel-intersect

    iv heard more interesting lullabies…is all i have to say..

    [Reply]

    LOL Reply:

    @pArallel-intersect, you probably listened to 30 seconds worth sit your lame ass down.

    [Reply]

  22. pArallel-intersect

    i wish it was possible to unlisten to an album.. wud unlisten sideline in a heartbeat

    [Reply]

  23. Triniti

    LA Times just lost all credibility with that…

    Some of these comments are hilarious! Big Sean received warmer reception than this from fans and critics and Finally Famous was SOOO underwhelming.

    Cole World : 4/5

    [Reply]

    lakermiss Reply:

    @Triniti,

    AGREED!!!

    [Reply]

  24. shaveljunya

    i like the album…its decent its also better than carter iv which in my opinion is trash, but watch the throne is still my #1 fav

    [Reply]

    bfbf Reply:

    @shaveljunya, so true kanye and jay z kings of hip hop. just gotta wait for drake take care album.

    [Reply]

  25. coleworld23

    COLE WORLD THE SIDELINE STORY BEST ALBUM EVER!

    [Reply]

  26. R&b-lover

    GO J. COLE #1 ON ITUNES BABY AND THEY SAID U WOULD FLOP!!!

    [Reply]

  27. ColeWorld

    Epic debut!!! This is what u call hip hop!!!! Not that Pink Friday crap *pukes*

    [Reply]

  28. 1 and Only

    Yeah boy J. Cole has made it to the big leauges and proved his haters and doubters wrong. HE GOT NEXT!!!

    [Reply]

  29. dussymob

    Best album of the year this dude put his heart in this album and its shown(Lost Ones, Nothing Last Forever, etc.)and to those who say its just average just know this album totally own anything Wayne ever made!

    [Reply]

  30. Drizzy

    Cole definitely put out a good album. with only 25% of the album having a feature on it, and to still be getting 4/5 and stuff.. Now I only have Drizzy’s album to look forward to, then I can look back at all the albums that dropped this year and rate them honestly. But Cole World is definitely up there as top-three, no doubt.

    [Reply]

  31. Big C

    It’s up there as one of the top albums of the year..I’ll go as far to say it’s better than Tha Carter IV..but thats just my own bias..WTT is the best album of the year right now..Take Care will be up there too

    [Reply]

    @JamesWinfield Reply:

    @Big C, You don’t have to go far to say it’s better than Tha Carter IV. Tha Carter IV was terrible.

    [Reply]

  32. Dee Eugene

    I have to say, I enjoyed his debut. He’s come a long way and this album didn’t disappoint me. “Dollar and a Dream III” is my favorite track off the entire album.! Kudos to J. Cole. :)

    [Reply]

  33. dave

    should have kept “it wont be long”

    [Reply]

    Duh Reply:

    @dave, i thought i was the only person who thought this.

    [Reply]

  34. ck

    cole world

    [Reply]

  35. saio

    Cole World worth to wait
    2011 is now was a good year for hip-hop music
    1. Lupe Fiasco – “Lasers” (only “Words I Never Said” sucks)
    2. Chris Brown – “FAME”
    3. Wiz Khalifa – “Rolling Papers”
    4. New Boyz – “Too Cool to Care” (love jerkin & some electro-hop)
    5. Tinie Tempah – “Disc-Overy”
    6. Tech N9ne – “All 6′s And 7′s”
    7. Eminem & Royce da 5’9 – “Hell: The Sequel”
    8. Pitbull – “Planet Pit” (there some good songs on this album the 2 later singles are gays)
    9. Big Sean – “Finally Famous”
    10. Jay-Z & Kanye West – “Watch the Throne”
    11. Royce da 5’9 – “Success Is Certain”
    12. Game – “The R.E.D. Album”
    13. Lil Wayne – “Tha Carter 4″ (only “John” sucks)
    and now J Cole join the list “Every Day A Star Is Born”
    next on the list Drake, Yellawolf, Wale, Common, Young Jeezy, Tyga & i think Dr Dre if Dextos gonna finish someday

    [Reply]

    Drizzy Reply:

    @saio, you said it man.

    [Reply]

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