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A photo illustration of J Cole.
Photo by Prince Williams/WireImage. Photo illustration by Srikar Poruri for Okayplayer.

J. Cole’s Biggest Competition is Himself

The highly anticipated album, The Fall Off, from rap’s reigning “feature killer” might just be one of the year’s biggest hip-hop moments.

J. Cole’s position in the pantheon of hip-hop has certainly been earned. With over 17 years in the game as a rapper and producer, he has notched six platinum solo albums and countless hits. However, all things eventually come to an end, and the North Carolina rapper has suggested over the last few years that he’ll hang it up soon — but not before he drops his much-anticipated album The Fall Off. Teased since 2018, shortly after J. Cole released his album KOD, The Fall Off has been widely rumored to be Cole’s final album. After years of starts and stops, the release of The Fall Off finally seems imminent, or as Cole would put it, inevitable, thanks to a new vlog he dropped last week.

Might Delete Later, Vol.

In the vlog, titled "Might Delete Later Vol. 1," Cole is hanging out with longtime friends such as Ib, his manager and Dreamville rapper Bas, as he crosses the country on Drake’s Big As The What? Tour. The video opens with Cole and crew putting up The Fall Off posters that say “The Fall Off is Inevitable,” with Cole autographing one of them. The part of the video that made the most waves online is the second to last segment, where Cole premieres an untitled new song. On the track, J. Cole sounds great, rhyming about his hunger, his superiority over other rappers and his journey so far. The line that caught everyone’s attention though, references a classic rap album: “The Fall-Off is like Hov dropping Reasonable Doubt last.”

Benny The Butcher & J. Cole - Johnny P's Caddy (Official Video)

While the bar itself is nice, what Cole is implying isn’t just a rapper talking. Since The Off-Season album, Cole’s hunger has never been more apparent. He has been on a tear over the last few years, from JID’s “Stick,” Benny The Butcher’s “Johnny P’s Caddy,” Drake’s “First Person Shooter” and beyond. To find another gear this late in a storied career is something to support, as aging in rap isn't easy. Cole has made it look simple, while also making it clear that he is just built differently than other artists. There are many reasons to believe that The Fall-Off could end up being near the top (if not at the top) of J. Cole’s discography, with one of the main ones being he is free now. There is nothing left to prove or do, besides outbox Father Time for as long as he can.

Drake - First Person Shooter ft. J.

There remains no release date for The Fall Off, but it will definitely be a huge moment in music when it drops. J. Cole knows that, and these small clues and peeks into his creative process are the perfect build-up. Maybe falling off isn’t inevitable.