Since entering high school, LeBron James has been anointed as the heir to Michael Jordan’s NBA throne, both in regards to championship success and marketability. As the young prince of the Roc, it would appears young Jermaine Cole is destined for even greater success than his label boss, Jay-Z, but according to the Fayetteville slugger “both changed the game / came through and made a lane / Who’s to say, that who’s greater, all we know, they ain’t the same” (‘Sideline Story’). After constant delays of his debut album, J.Cole has finally made it off the bench and entered the game with a stellar introduction to the mainstream.
Young Simba expounds upon a wide range of intimate content, shining light on a mature mindset beyond his years. ‘Never Told’ continues No I.D.’s string of excellent compositions as Cole takes an alternate route in examining every young man’s rite of passage, passed down from a father to a son, in the form of infidelity. Recalling being pulled over after inking his deal to Roc Nation, the album seeps into ‘Sideline Story’, a jazzy ditty that offers a sincere perspective of the game of life from the bench. Hip-hop welcomes Missy Elliott back with open arms as her soulful vocals unite with Cole’s uncharismatic serenades on the superb duet, ‘Nobody’s Perfect.’ Album closer ‘Breakdown’ yanks at the heart strings as “Light-skinned” Jermaine sheds alligator-tough skin in bearing all regarding his absentee father and his mother’s bout with drug addiction.
It’s not all serious, of course. Trey Songz adds very little to the island workings of ‘Can’t Get Enough,’ which serves as a record that could make noise on Billboard charts and a fine nod to Jay-Z’s ‘Big Pimpin’ single. The much-ballyhooed collaboration ‘Mr. Nice Watch’ with label boss Jay-Z incorporates the “dubstep” movement for a tempered number of braggadocio, which fails to live up to billing with a subliminal-laden showing from Jay-Z and corny, commercial rhymes from Cole. Overall, Cole World sees Young Simba embark on his journey to be the king, conveying his story from unsigned to Roc Nation signee, with the bowels of the ‘Ville, coursing through his veins. 4.5 spins (out of 5)