J. Cole Essentials

J. Cole Essentials

Like occasional collaborator Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole has emerged as one of the rare rappers capable of reconciling the conscious with the commercial. Even at his most triumphant (“ATM,” “KOD,” “G.O.M.D.”), Cole sounds serious if not troubled, like a regular guy trying to sift through difficult questions—about fame, about ambition, about morality and relationships—with a moral imperative that borders on the evangelical. What shines brightest, though, is his confidence: Agree or disagree with him, it's easy to respect his willingness to take a stand.

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