2014 Forest Hills Drive

2014 Forest Hills Drive

Named after his childhood home, J. Cole’s highly revered third studio album sticks to the Fayetteville, NC rapper’s well-established formula, featuring several self-produced cuts in which warm, old-school samples underpin lyrics about life’s weighty lessons. But unlike earlier offerings, 2014 Forest Hills Drive makes hard pills easy to swallow, as the rapper finds his footing and perfects the balance between conscious and commercial. The album also finds Cole trying to balance the coexistence of darkness and light, with the smile-inducing “Wet Dreamz” pouring into poignant cuts like “03’ Adolescence.” All the while, Cole’s lyrical approach is as unpretentious as his wardrobe, with the MC delivering lessons on cultural appropriation, relatable childhood faux pas, and the true meaning of life. Thanks to its unflinching confidence, playful narratives, and soulful reflections, 2014 Forest Hills Drive would prove to be Cole’s most successful album—culturally and critically—upon its release in 2014. It would go on to sell more than 3 million copies, thanks in part to a daring (and deeply personal) marketing campaign: Cole announced the record less than a month before its drop date, and in the lead-up to release day, the rapper invited a group of his biggest fans to the actual 2014 Forest Hills Drive for a listening session (later, Cole turned that very home into rent-free housing for single mothers). To this day, 2014 Forest Hills Drive remains a crucial entry in the J. Cole catalog: an album that draws on his past, while also giving listeners a glimpse of his future.

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