J. Cole is back. After a multi-year hiatus, the Dreamville commander released his highly-anticipated, six studio album The Off-Season on Thursday (May 14). At first glance, Cole’s new LP appears featureless, but as listeners sonically peruse the 12-track album, familiar vocals can be heard from the likes of Cam’ron (on “95.south”), 21 Savage and Morray (on “my.life”), and Lil Baby (on “pride.is.the.devil”). Timbaland, Boi-1da, DJ Dahi, Frank Dukes, Tae Beast, Jake One, T-Minus, and more lent their production chops to many collaborative tracks on the nearly 40-minute project.
Earlier this week, Cole released a mini-documentary, Applying Pressure: The Off-Season Documentary. In the 12 and a half minute film, the 36-year-old father talks about the reason behind his studio album’s title, life lessons he’s learned about complacency, structuring his life for family, and regrets, as well as his mission of becoming an even better artist and athlete.
“I started realizing the parallel between the rapping, for me, and basketball,” he explained. “I gotta operate at a high skill level and the only way you’re going to operate at a high skill level is [by] putting in the hours. The practice, so it’s like coming down to the off-season, it was the same mentality. It was like, ‘Damn, this is the time to get better.’ So I have to continuously come up with ways to reignite.”
Speaking of basketball, Cole is reportedly pursuing his hoop dreams. According to ESPN and The Undefeated, he’s signed on to play for the Rwanda Patriots BBC in the Basketball Africa League’s inaugural season and has been spotted. Their first game will be against the Nigeria River Hoopers on Sunday, May 16 at 10 a.m. ET on the NBA app and NBA.com.
In the meantime, you can stream Cole’s new album on Apple Music, Spotify, and Tidal.