It’s another win for J. Cole. His fourth album, 4 Your Eyez Only is now certified platinum and Instagram is on fire as users acknowledge the Dreamville emcee’s success. According to the Recording Industry Association of America, the LP went certified platinum on Friday, four months after its release. This just in a week before the debut of the 4 Your Eyez Only film via HBO on April 15th.
This is the second time Cole’s put out an LP with no features, no catchy hooks, or catchy beats, and went platinum. But this is the first time a hip-hop artist has had two consecutive albums go platinum without those things label executives would say is key to selling records.
Now, whether Cole is the best emcee of his new school class is still up for debate given some critics would say, Drake, Joey Bada$$ and Kendrick Lamar are more gifted on the mic.
However, it’s safe to say Cole is a primary leader of his new school class. For one, he’s exercised his ability as an innovative tastemaker. Two, he said he would raise the bar high on 2014 Forest Hills Drive track “January 28th” and did it.
“This is New York’s finest for 11 winters straight I took on New York’s climate/Like show me New York’s ladder I climb it and set the bar so high that you gotta get Obama to force the air force to find it/Never mind it, you’ll never reach that; Cole is the hypnotist control the game whenever he snap”
Now, let’s backtrack a bit. Cole released 2014 Forest Hills Drive on December 9th, 2014. On the LP, you don’t hear any features, catchy beats, or hooks. All you hear is Cole reminiscing about good times and talking about his annoyance with the buffoonery in hip-hop culture. No gimmicks incorporated. He didn’t even promote the album before its release, and it worked.
By October 19, 2016, the album went double platinum making it the first hip-hop album with no features to surpass $1 million in record sales in 20 plus years.
Various reports cited Vanilla Ice‘s 1990 To The Extreme LP as the last hip-hop album with no features to achieve such success. But let’s not forget Wu-Tang Clan did the same thing in 1993 with Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers).
For a hip-hop album to have achieved platinum success the way it did for the fifth time in history was a proud moment in hip-hop culture. So for Cole to do that again from a more introspective standpoint and sell a million records marks a phenomenal milestone in hip-hop.
This solidifies Cole as a major player and a true contributor to the game. But what does this mean for hip-hop going forward?
Should more rappers lean more towards innovation instead of riding a wave? Should more rappers use the classic elements of hip-hop as a blueprint for making albums? Or will we have to watch what Kendrick’s album does before we answer that question?