J.Cole is kind of a polarizing artist – and for what reason I don’t know. You love him or you don’t listen to him (I refuse to categorize that as hate). I admit, I slept on him for a while before delving in (pause). For those who are a fan of the young king – his latest 2014 Forest Hill Drive is a personal, poignent example of good hip-hop. Over 13 tracks, Cole eloquently rocks his heart on his sleeve and struts over subject matter that ranges from first (and various) sexual experiences to issues of race and self-worth.

The album is largely produced by Cole himself, with some exceptions – ’03 Adolesence, Tale of 2 Cities and Love Truly were produced by Willie B., Vinylz and !llmind/Cardiak respectively. The other exceptions have Cole “co-producing”, so he is extremely hands on (and it shows). From blasting white rappers on the banging Fire Squad, chasing dreams on the Mobb Deep sampled St. Tropez or flexing hindsight and regret on Apparently, Cole shows a lot of himself on this record – and his honesty is paying off.

The album has thus far been extremely well received by fans around the world, and with good reason. Cole is just a good dude. Whether he’s buying his mother’s foreclosed home (his childhood home), or visiting fans to personally play them his new record, Cole just seems like a good person – and it isn’t unnoticed by his core audience, who are propelling this latest project up the charts.

It’s available everywhere now – A MUST LISTEN!

Note: This top 5 is solely that of Riley “Special” Wallace and doesn’t explicitly reflect the view of all aboveaveragehiphop.com’s staff and writers.