J. Cole had his fans worried he would be taking a hiatus when he declared, "Said all I could say, now I play with thoughts of retirement" on "Jermaine's Interlude" from DJ Khaled's Major Key. But the artist made an unexpected surprise return with his fourth album, 4 Your Eyez Only, on Dec. 9.
He gets introspective about topics like Black Lives Matter, police brutality, the corrupt U.S. prison system and falling in love. It is all tied together with Cole telling the story of James McMillan Jr., a friend who recently passed away, to James' daughter. So get into the 25 best lyrics on J. Cole's 4 Your Eyez Only—listed, not ranked, and all straight from the rapper who may once again go platinum with no features.
1. From “4 Your Eyez Only”
I dedicate these words to you and all the other children
Affected by the mass incarceration in this nation
That sent your pops to prison when he needed education
Sometimes I think that segregation would've done us better
Although I know that means that I would never
Be brought into this world 'cause my daddy was so thrilled
When he found him a white girl to take back to Jonesboro
2. From “Immortal”
And the drought got me prayin' for a Carl Thom vibe
"Summer Rain" come again
Numb the pain 'cause it's hard for a felon
3. From “Change”
Yeah, my intuition is telling me there'll be better days
I sit in silence and find whenever I meditate
My fears alleviate, my tears evaporate
My faith don't deviate, ideas don't have a date
4. From “Neighbors”
Yeah, I don't want no picture with the President
I just wanna talk to the man
Speak for the boys in the bando
And my n---a never walkin’ again
5. “She’s Mine Pt. 2"
I wanna cry, and I ain't even tryna fight it
Don't wanna die, cause now you're here
And I just wanna be right by your side
6. From “4 Your Eyez Only”
'Cause young n---as is hardheaded, they letting off
Full of adrenaline, ignorant to what death can cause
Ain't no coming back, family dressed in black
Plus it's hot now, the cops outside, it's hard to flip a pack
7. From "Foldin Clothes"
N--as from the hood is the best actors
We the ones that got to wear our face backwards
Put your frown on before they think you soft
Never smile long or take your defense off
8. From “Neighbors”
My 16 should've came with a coffin
Fuck the fame and the fortune—well, maybe not the fortune
But one thing is for sure though, the fame is exhausting
9. From "Change"
Yeah, my chosen religion: Jesus piece frozen from sinnin'
Doin' dirt hoping to God, He know my intentions
10. From She’s Mine Pt. 1"
Every time you go to sleep you look like you in Heaven
Plus the head game is stronger than a few Excedrin
You shine just like the patent leather on my new 11's
You read me like a book like
I'm the Bible, you the reverend
11. From "Deja Vu"
'Cause you a star—no, not the type that snort the white lines
I mean the type to light the night time, I heard you got a man
12. From “Immortal”
Get my weight up on the block, keep watch for the cops
God, they love to serve a n---a three hots and a cot
Nowadays crime pays like a part time job
13. From “For Whom the Bell Tolls”
The bells getting loud, ain't nowhere to hide
Got nowhere to go, put away my pride
Tired of feeling low even when I'm high
Ain't no way to live, do I wanna die?
14. From “Change”
See, I believe if God is real, he'd never judge a man
Because he knows us all and therefore he would understand
The ignorance that make a n---a take his brother's life
The bitterness and pain that got him beating on his wife
15. From “Neighbors”
Some things you can't escape; death, taxes and a racist
Society that make every n---a feel like a candidate
For a Trayvon-kinda fate, even when your crib sit on a lake
Even when your plaques hang on a wall
Even when the President jam your tape
16. From “Foldin Clothes”
Foldin' clothes, watching Netflix
Catching up on our shows, eating breakfast
Raisin Bran in my bowl with bananas and some almond milk
I never thought I'd see the day I'm drinking almond milk ("You soft!”)
17. From “4 Your Eyez Only”
This is hell and I don't mean that hyperbolic
I try to find employment even if it's wiping toilets
But these felonies be making life the hardest
Resisting the temptation to run up and swipe a wallet
18. From “Neighbors”
I can't sleep cause I'm paranoid
Black in a white man territory
Cops bust in with the army guns
No evidence of the harm we done
Just a couple neighbors that assume we slang
Only time they see us we be on the news, in chains, damn
19. From “4 Your Eyez Only”
Don't know if I ever had a chance, at a glance, I'm a failure
Addicted to pushing paraphernalia
But Daddy had dreams once, my eyes had a gleam once
20. From “She’s Mine Pt. 2"
Handcuffs keep huggin' the wrists of my n---as
And I wish stuff was different here
But if I had a magic wand to make the evil disappear
That means that there would be no Santa Claus no more
To bring you Christmas cheer
Cause what he represents is really greed
And the need to purchase shit from corporations
That make a killin' because they feed
On the wallets of the poor
Who be knockin' on they door every Black Friday
Just to get some shit they can't afford
21. From “Ville Mentality"
You call it runnin', I call it escapin'
Start a new life in a foreign location
Similar to my n---as duckin' cases
Can't take the possible time that it faces
22. From “Deja Vu”
I catch your eye then look away as if it never happened
At times I feel as though I'm caught up in a strange dream
If eyes could talk then mines would tell you that I'm feeling you
Sometimes I swear your eyes be telling me the same thing
23. From "Immortal"
It's that sort of thinkin' that been keepin' n---as chained
At the bottom and hanged
The strangest fruit that you ever seen
Ripe with pain, listen...
24. From “4 Your Eyez Only”
My definition of a real n---a was skewed
My views misshaped by new mixtapes
That confirmed the shit I learned in the streets was true
That real n---as don't speak when they beef with you
They just pull up on your street, let the heat achoo
25. From "Immortal"
Have you ever heard the screams when the body hit the floor?
Flashbacks to the pain, wakin' up, cold sweats
Six o'clock in the mornin', gotta hit the Bowflex
Below, listen to an episode of Back of the Class podcast about 4 Your Eyez Only album and J. Cole's role in hip-hop today: