The Tragedy of “4 Your Eyez Only”
“4 Your Eyez Only” is tragic. Not in its quality but in plot. The use of plot is nothing new to rap— “Eyez” is loosely reminiscent of Kendrick Lamar’s “good kid, m.A.A.d city.
However, Cole takes a new spin by showing a young man’s journey to edge of adult and parenthood. For anyone looking for a classic J. Cole slapper, this is not your album. While “Eyez” may not live up to the hype and commercial success of “2014 Forest Hills Drive,” it is his most versatile album. Excluding “Immortals” and “Deja Vu,” “Eyez” shows Cole’s softer, highly introspective side. There’s a deeper sadness to the album at large, a feeling similar to the album’s theme of deathly premonition, that despite moments of love and joy, his life is fated to fall apart.
“Eyez” is the telling story of a young man’s story to his friend, Cole following premonitions of his own death. From his time as a young man whose life revolves around parties and girls, suppressing thoughts of his own mortality. He considers the systematized oppression of the United States government and law enforcement, referring not only to the string of unpunished shootings of black men by white police officers, but also the historic brutality of slavery and oppression, as well as falling in love and having a daughter.
J. Cole’s signature use of imagery produces an album much closer to a pictureless film than a mere compilation of driving beats, sweet melodies and poignant lyrics. “Eyez” is a practice of empathy, which asks the listener to consider an unheard man’s point of view.