Archive for the ‘Album Reviews’ Category

A criminally unknown album, released Nov. 29th 2011.

Rashad & Confidence

Element of Surprise


1. Introduction

2. Brand New—5/5

3. The City—5/5

4. Understand—5/5

5. Rumors of War—5/5

6. Days of My Youth—5/5

7. Interlude

8. Pen On Display—4.5/5

9. Shining—4.5/5

10. Pass Me By—5/5

11. Interlude

12. They Keep Asking Me—5/5

13. Let Me Explain—5/5

14. All Year Round—5/5

15. The Break-Up Song—4.5/5


Track Rating: 4.88/5

Intangibles: 5/5

OVERALL RATING: 4.94/5= 98%


Track Overview


Brand New- Wow. This is literally a breath fresh air for hip-hop. This track is like opening up the blinds on a new day. The saxophone, the flute, the guitar it’s all perfectly blended to make a euphoric beat. This track was literally the FIRST time I ever heard Rashad drop bars. His flow is flawless, and the lyrics are completely on-point, “This is the path I chose and Imma walk it while I’m shakin hands with fans and foes, I got what this industry lack well… crafted flows.” As this track closed I had to press pause before moving on to the next song, I was just so blown away. How had I not heard of Rashad or Confidence? 5/5


The City- I did however move to the next track eventually and it did not disappoint. “The City” is not only an ode to Rashad’s New York or Confidence’s hometown Philly, it is an anthem for anyone being oppressed by the venomous “urban life”. The Nas sample, “the city never sleeps…” is just an added bonus. 5/5


Understand- Up next is another gem. Rashad explains how no one understands both his struggles and his triumphs. “If you don’t understand how to make a classic LP, then you don’t really understand what it takes to mc.” 5/5

Rumors of War- Rashad paints a terrific picture of our world’s problems with “Rumors of War”. Confidence comes through with yet another perfect beat. Also, Rashad provides another GREAT hook in this track. 5/5


Days of My Youth- Once I heard the Crooklyn Dodgers sample I knew I was in for a treat. Rashad proves he is also an amazing storyteller as he sheds light on his younger days. 5/5


Pen on Display- Very self-explanatory. Just a lyrical slaughter. Rashad proves to his listeners that no one is touching his pen’s skills. “You heard Rashad is the truth, that’s what the rumors allege, but the proof was seen in the masses moving their heads.” 4.5/5


Shining- Rashad laces “Shining” with introspective lyrics and explains his true dreams of eventually getting his share of the limelight. 4.5/5


Pass Me By- This track gives Rashad the “everyman’s rapper” vibe. He explains how he can be lazy and has had his share of missed opportunities, whether it be music or women, but he continues to look forward. 5/5


They Keep Asking Me- I feel like this song was directed at me because Rashad definitely has me asking, “Who is this guy?!” The rapper basically states how he is the best-kept secret in the industry. 5/5


Let Me Explain- A beautifully crafted story of the evils of hip-hop. This is one of my favorite songs of the year. “You got the glamour, the glitz, the fortune and fame, but was it worth the sacrifice for the portion you gained?” 5/5


All Year Round- The highlight of the next track is the undeniable smoothness of Confidence’s beat. Rashad speaks on his daily grind and once again provides a flawless hook. 5/5


The Break-Up Song- The album closes with Rashad’s take on his own tumultuous relationship. With a deeper analysis however, it seems evident that Rashad’s woman may very well be hip-hop. 4.5/5



As I finished listening to this album I was completely awe-struck. How have I not heard of these guys? I almost feel guilty for not copping this album once it dropped in late November. Musically it is hard to critique this album because when it’s all said and done I’m basically trying to find fault in perfection. The real power of this album for me is seen beyond the music. Yes, this is a near perfect album. However, music aside, I feel like it reveals a horrible hypocrisy we hip-hop fans exhibit constantly. We ostracize rappers who supposedly “sellout” and speak on how they should have “stayed true” yet we allow an album like this to slip right under our noses! Along with making beautiful music, rappers need to do one other thing, make a living! This is simply just impossible when your work goes unrecognized, so can we really blame artists who sign to a major to get some cash?  If we’re not going to appreciate an album of this nature than why should artists, like Rashad and Confidence, continue to make music like this? I am sure that artists such as these care more about their creative integrity than their sales, however last time I checked purity and candor DO NOT pay the bills! Ill Adrenaline Records, the label that put this album out has only 75 likes on Facebook!!!!! If we “true” fans continue to allow pieces of art like Element of Surprise to go unnoticed, unrecognized, and overlooked then rarities such as this will soon be extinct. Stop complaining about artists selling out and revel in the perfection that is out there in the hip-hop world. Appreciation of great works such as this will lead to many more artists taking this route and “staying true” to what makes hip-hop beautiful. Until then we can continue to argue about how much “horrible” rap music there is and remain ignorantly blind to true art like this.




J. Cole Sideline Story Review

Posted: January 17, 2012 in Album Reviews

I know this review is very late however I feel like it offers an original view of the album. This review is also the first of many that will be posted at Lethal Lyricism.

The review structure is very similar to the ones used on other forums however I add one more category. That category is Intangibles. This category is determined by the overall diversity, originality, themes, consistency, and lasting effect of the album. It is graded on a 1 to 5 scale and averaged with the total track average to determine the overall rating. Please leave your thoughts and suggestions. Thank You!

J. Cole
Cole World: The Sideline Story

2.Dollar and a Dream III—4/5
3.Can’t Get Enough—3.5/5
4.Lights Please—5/5
6.Sideline Story—3.5/5
7.Mr. Nice Watch—2/5
8.Cole World—3/5
9.In The Morning—4/5
10.Lost Ones—5/5
11.Nobody’s Perfect—5/5
12.Never Told—3.5/5
13.Rise and Shine—4.5/5
14.God’s Gift—3/5
17.Who Dat—4.5/5
18.Daddy’s Little Girl—4/5

Track Rating: 3.84/5
Intangibles: 3.7/5
OVERALL RATING: 3.77/5=75%

Track Overview

Intro- The intro, like every Cole intro, features a melancholy piano riff that builds anticipation for the first track. All of his intros are supremely dope to me.

Dollar and a Dream III- The third song in the Dollar and a Dream series is the most cinematic yet. The University production on the track creates a great backdrop for Cole’s introspective lyrics. The only thing holding this song back from a perfect rating is some of its weak lines. EX: “Let you think that you the shit but boy you can out-fart me.” Cole is simply just better than that lyrically. 4/5

Can’t Get Enough- My feelings for this song have varied constantly since I first heard it. On first listen I loved it, the sample, the hook, and even the Trey Songz feature. However, it began to become very repetitive and almost unbearable after a couple listens. When the album dropped I had expected to skip “Cant Get Enough” on my original listen, but I gave it another chance and enjoyed it thoroughly once again. Though it has gained so much criticism from “true” hip-hop heads for lacking great lyrics and being simply a mainstream product I believe “Cant Get Enough” is a glimpse at a hopeful and promising future for mainstream hip-hop. While it lacks the lyricism and concepts of songs like “Mo Money Mo Problems” or “Big Pimpin” it reminds me a lot of those tracks in terms of musicality and purpose. This track was created in an attempt for Cole to mesh his conscience background with mainstream elements and for a first try the song is definitely a success. 3.5/5

Lights Please- Since first hearing this song over two years ago I knew it would be a great asset for Cole as an artist. This is Cole at his best. The concept is incredible, the lyrics are great, the production is simple yet perfect, and the song is very listenable. This is the type of song that made J. Cole my favorite artist and in creating this song he mastered an equation that really satisfies the orthodox audience of rap and the mainstream. 5/5

Interlude- This is a funny little interview J. Cole did about ironically getting arrested right after signing to Roc Nation. The piano in the background is very catchy and leads perfectly into the next song.

Sideline Story- Let me start by saying I love this song. However, I feel like it could have been much greater. Cole really could’ve crafted a great storytelling track to go along with this beat, something like “Dreams” or “Losing My Balance” but with a different theme of course. 3.5/5

Mr. Nice Watch- This track to me will always just be overshadowed by disappointment. I was expecting the Jay-Z collaboration on this album to be the highlight track, it turned out to be my least favorite. Sure Cole ventures bravely into a new territory with the beat and Jay delivers a very witty verse, but the concept of the song feels very unfulfilled. It seems like the song is catered almost completely towards Jigga and the trending Watch the Throne, braggadocios, look at my success theme. 2/5

Cole World- Another song with missed potential. I actually enjoy this beat a lot! “Cole World” is a nice hype-track, but sadly that is it. The title track of an album should define the album and just like “Sideline Story” the song simply falls short. 3/5

In the Morning- I completely understand why this song was put on the album. Drake is a huge name right now and a collab between this two spells success. I really enjoy this song and it’s very well crafted. However, I’m not sure it really needed to be put on the album in place of something completely new. It really hasn’t been played on the radio or gained tremendous mainstream success, so besides having Drake’s name on the back of the album it seems to be a failed experiment. 4.5/5

Lost Ones- This track is easily one of my favorites on the album. The emotion Cole comes with on this track cannot be denied. The male, female, and third party lyrical structure is terrific and once again the song not only is highly conscience but also can be played on the radio! 5/5

Nobody’s Perfect- Great beat, addicting lyrics, and a tremendous feature. This song deserves and will receive recognition. It gives that 90’s feel but also incorporates elements that are popular in today’s audience. 5/5

Never Told- I see what Cole was going for in this song. The lyrics and his flow are very poetic and I really enjoy the No I.D. production but the themes of relationships and women begin to get repetitive after about four songs in a row. 3.5/5

Rise and Shine- This is easily my favorite beat on the album. Cole reaches his full potential production-wise on this track. The lyrics are fierce and honestly they reminded me that I was listening to a J. Cole album. The final verse on “Rise and Shine” is probably the strongest on the album. 4.5/5

God’s Gift- I remember watching Cole perform the first verse of this song in concert before the album came out. I thought the song was destined to be a classic after hearing that Jay-Z would be featured on it as well. However, for some reason I will never understand, Jay was put on “Mr. Nice Watch”. This song should have been epic, with master and apprentice sharing verses, a passing of the torch so to speak. Ultimately, it falls short. With no Jay-Z feature it seems that Cole rushed a second verse that strays COMPLETELY from the flawless groundwork laid by the first verse. The song is still good in my opinion. The sub-par subject matter of the second verse is saved by an angelic beat and a ferociously good first verse. 3/5

Breakdown- The album concludes with a classic J. Cole song. It is a GREAT song however it does not have the same affect on me because it seems like I have heard it before. Its like Cole forgot to include it on Friday Night Lights. 4/5


Workout- I have grown to LOVE this song. The beat is creative and very upbeat. If you still don’t understand what Cole was trying to do with this song then you really need to realize soon. He said himself he made it as a radio single and it was a complete success. 3/5

Who Dat- I always thought this song deserved much more recognition than it ever got. It is simply Cole slaughtering the beat with hard lyrics. 4.5/5

Daddy’s Little Girl- This song should have been on the album! Take out “Mr. Nice Watch” and put this in its place. This is Cole straying from his normal formula with very high success. 4/5

Yes, I was one of those fans who expected a groundbreaking classic from J. Cole on his first time around. However, after listening and digesting this album multiple times I am far from disappointed. The biggest problem I have with this album is it’s missed potential and to me that is a TERRIFIC problem to have. The potential for Cole to deliver a classic is all there; it is the execution that is missing. J. Cole also did something that has not been seen since Kanye’s debut back in 2004, he crafted an album worthy of the harsh critics that dwell in the “real hip hop” world while also being extremely successful commercially. Not to mention that Cole has created a completely new lane for other rappers with a conscience background to succeed in the mainstream, ex: Kendrick Lamar and Big KRIT. So if Cole is the sacrificial lamb for true hip-hop to succeed in the mainstream and this is the output of that sacrifice I am MORE than happy! If you need reassurance that J. Cole is one of the most gifted hip-hop artists of the last decade please re-listen to his CLASSIC mixtapes. Cole attempted to please many audiences with his debut and he succeeded in many ways. Now, with an established name and another year of growth as an artist I believe J. Cole’s sophomore output will be jaw dropping.