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Desert Island Disc Challenge: ‘2014 Forest Hills Drive’

Sharp storytelling and plenty of musical variation.

Devin Townsend

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Editor’s note: As part of CMN’s ongoing music journalism program, we asked our team of music writers to take on the age-old challenge of choosing one piece of music they would like to have with them if they were stranded on a deserted island. It’s an absurd notion, but also irresistible. See all the different approaches they took to the challenge right over here.

When considering the type of album someone would want to listen to for the rest of their life, many things come to mind: What kind of mood will I be in? Should it be a widely considered classic? Am I the only one that’s going to be listening to this album?

They’re many great artists with incredible albums, of course. The Beatles’ Revolver, Bob Marley’s Legend and anything by Kendrick Lamar. With all factors considered, I chose 2014 Forest Hills Drive by J. Cole as my desert island disc.

Cole is one of the most influential and popular artists in today’s music industry. He makes platinum albums without the use of features and album promotion. The phrase, “J. Cole went platinum with no features” is one that has been coined by his fans because he primarily composed and produced the entirety of the album and won awards like the BET Hip Hop Award for Album of the Year, Billboard Music Award for Top Rap Album in 2015, as well as a Grammy Award nomination for Best Rap Album in 2016. On January 8th, 2016, the album was certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). 

Not only is he one of the greatest rappers of all time, but he has an ability that most artists only dream of the ability to tell stories that connect. On songs like “Wet Dreams” and “St. Tropez” Cole spins intimate stories about his life.

“Wet Dreams” is the story of his youth and what it felt like to try and finesse a girl for the first time. He takes a common occurrence and turns it into a hit. Most middle school students know what it’s like to try and impress a significant other and how challenging this interaction can be. Being stuck on an island, away from reality would be challenging and this song would give relief through humor and storytelling. 

In “St. Tropez,” Cole talks about his early career when he was first going out to Hollywood. He asks himself if he’s ready to face fame and fortune, living in the limelight, and everything that comes with it. He also says fear should never stop someone from accomplishing their goals and chasing after their dreams.   

2014 Forest Hills Drive  connects you with Cole through multiple musical styles, which would keep the island listening experience fresh. 

Songs like “A Tale of 2 Citiez” and “Fire Squad”  will keep me pumped up and ready to take on any challenge the deserted island serves up. If it was a nice evening spent relaxing in the sand, letting “Intro” fade into “January 28th” as you sat back and looked at the stars. All of these songs gives the glimpse into Cole’s mind as he deals with different aspects of his life, whether it’s hardcore hip-hop or smooth melodies. 

 “Hello” and “Apparently” are two of my favorite songs from the album. Cole reflects on his life and the decisions he’s made. While listening, it’s easy to reflect on your own life choices and think about the actions that need to be taken in order to right any wrongdoings. Although the songs are about life’s mistakes, the uplifting tone makes you want to correct your fault.   

2014 Forest Hills Drive is a complete album with everything you need on an exclusive island getaway, even if that means being deserted. There is a song for any occasion and is a record that would be extremely hard to get tired of listening to. Each song comes with its own story, style and flow, grasping a unique aspect of the Cole’s life.

J. Cole is a truly gifted artist and his music would keep any inhabitants of a deserted island entertained for days, months and maybe even years. 

If you obsess over singers and bands, and are one of those people who make a playlist for every occasion, join CMN’s Music Journalism Course and get real-time experience, intense feedback on your writing, exposure to music industry insiders, and a great place to display build your portfolio. Get all the details on the Music Journalism Course here.

Devin Townsend is a James Madison University student and student journalist born and raised in northern Virginia. Currently he’s studying for a degree in journalism and working for the school newspaper, The Breeze, in the culture section. This section covers music, movies, food and events happening in the Harrisonburg community. Currently, Devin is working to finish his degree, in his free time he enjoys playing club lacrosse at JMU, rooting for the L.A Chargers and hiking in the Shenandoah National Park.

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