It may be the hottest time of the year, but yet again it is a Cole world. All jokes aside, J. Cole is back with a new two-song drop under the project name Lewis Street, and the songs within are “The Climb Back” produced by Cole himself and “Lion King On Ice” co-produced by Cole, T-Minus, and Jetsonmade. Coming off a poorly timed and strangely executed release in “Snow on tha Bluff,” these two elite tracks seem to serve as an indirect apology to his fans in awareness and quality.
They are the perfect duo, as Cole delivers through the singles the two best versions of himself. On the self-produced “The Climb Back,” first and foremost, Cole reminds everyone of his top-tier rap ability. Each verse is of the most noteworthy of the year. The first is filled with repeated intricate wordplay and metaphors that require at least a triple listen, as well as a written lyric breakdown to catch every clever execution. Of the most memorable lines is when he raps, “turn up your decibels, peep how I decimate the joint, check out my projects like them workers that section 8 appoints, and you’ll see how i flipped like exclamation points.” When written out, you can see all the bars for yourself, but to coincide his come-up, with the decimation done by government-appointed section 8 inspectors, with punctuation imagery will make your mind flip like the wordplay.
In verse two, Cole then flexes his flow muscle dancing on his own beat like Timbaland at the beginning of the “Work It” video. The sequence when he raps, “Meanwhile, I see that yo’ diamonds is glistenin’. I’m glad that you shinin’, but need I remind you my n***as is dimin’ and nickelin’? Scrapin’ up whatever coin they can find, the pettiest crime, they committin’ it. Just to get by for a limited time, the steepest of mountains, they tryin’ to climb. I’m here tryna find the derivative,” evokes steam out of the ears like Yosemite Sam. Then in classic Cole fashion, he ends his soul sample filled super-beat with an incredibly resonant outro as he sings, “Everybody mentions suicide prevention. Man, they even made a hotline. To call up when there’s tension, but I got a question what about a fuckin’ homicide? Need a number for my n***as to call.” One of Cole’s secret weapons in songs is his ability to create almost hidden sections of deep contemplations realized in inventive ideas. This one feels reminiscent of another classic Cole track he astutely mentions earlier in the song “Foldin Clothes,” where he ends the track with the memorable utterance, “n***as in the hood is the best actors.”
“The Lion King On Ice” is a return of Cole’s semi-alter ego of Simba from the three-part series, including tracks ”Simba,” ”Grown Simba,” and ”The Return of Simba.” This new joint comes through with the same hunger with a slice of maturity. Cole raps, “Young Simba had the bustdown, yeah Lion King on ice. N***as wanted me to look the part I had to stop taking advice. Put the jewelry to the side, had to find me, had to find God.” He spits a self-care flow, with a spirituality over outward presentation flow. He has journeyed from Simba to the King, but lodged in that idea, with the Disney ice skating show reference, is the thought that Cole’s status is for performance and his reality is human like us all. With the new wave Jetsonmade bounce for Cole to float on, he’s levitating. When he can access this part of himself where he seems to be emerging on the other side of some kind of inner turmoil, he knows how to deliver it so universally. It is one of the qualities that truly elevates Cole to being a top-tier generational artist.
These tracks are what Cole has dubbed the first two from his final project, The Fall Off. If the project strikes the balance of all-encompassing introspective rapper/producer Cole, and freeing and uplifting collaborative Cole, as these two singles have, the album could make a permanent musical mark on the time of its release.