Review: ‘N-ggaz Know’ Proves J. Cole Is Lyrically A Top Three MC (Right Now)


A lyrical monster is unleashed on Cole’s latest

Amid the onslaught of Molly-obsessed provocateurs and swag-over-substance acolytes, lyricism within hip-hop has been quietly making a comeback. Alongside the likes of acclaimed Compton MC Kendrick Lamar, Odd Future wunderkind Earl Sweatshirt and Toronto ladies man Drake stands North Carolina product J. Cole. With his sophomore release Born Sinner due on June 18, the lanky Jay-Z protégé has leaked a track from his upcoming set.

The chest-beating “Niggaz Know” could easily get bogged down from its eye-winking production. Try not to pay too much attention to the brazen nod to Notorious B.I.G.’s legendary 1997 sparring session with Bone Thugs-N-Harmony and Hov’s 1998 breakout verbal gymnastic display “Nigga What, Nigga Who (Originator 99).” Just immerse yourself in Cole’s effortlessly potent wordplay that jumps from playful (“Country ass nigga with an Audemars/Can’t spell the shit, but I order more…”) to reflective (“Came home from the first tour, with Bad credit and a school bill…” to downright scary (“This B.I.G. nigga, this Pac/Minus six shots, but it’s still this hot…”).

What does all this mean? With its nuance and slick metaphoric flips, “Niggaz Know” is not for Chief Keef fans. J. Cole’s reputation as being among the elite new guard of gifted rap talents is no mere hyperbole or the usual unwarranted hype. The young boy is damn good. —Keith Murphy (@murphdogg29)