This question is one that is met with an insane amount of controversy but warrants a rather simple answer. Lyrically yes, stylistically not so much and this is why.
J Cole undoubtedly is a talented artist. He records songs that strike close to people’s hearts, addresses social injustices and songs that you can turn up to. What more could you want as these are three very different styles of songs but there is one for each of your moods. On the surface, these songs do not have that much in common.
However, J Cole ties them together in a way that is almost unique to him. This factor is his voice. It is insanely monotone. To clarify this statement, it means that he uses little to no range in his songs as well just the same plain-old voice he uses when he talks, sings and raps. His counterpart and who he is pitted against most as the best MC of our generation, Kendrick Lamar, utilizes all kinds of creative tools that we just do not get in Cole’s music. Kendrick has many different voices he uses and just as many distortions, pitches and tones. This is incomparable to Cole who uses only one voice throughout the majority of his music. Go ahead and listen.
His undeniably great lyrics makes his music great content wise but makes it rather hard to listen to. The tone seems to stay the exact same throughout making it rather tedious to listen to more than a song or two. His lyrical ability is nuts, his vocal ability, not so hot.
His live performances look crazy though. This does not seem to reflect his recorded music. His studio albums seem to lack the energy and chaos that his stage shows do. If he could channel this energy into his recorded music, he may turn his non-believers into fans.
There is no question whether or not he is good for the hip hop community. He is great. He is an activist, philanthropist and advocate for many social issues in our world today. It is just that when he raps about it, his tone makes him seem like he just does not care that much.
The debate between pro and anti J Cole is crazy. People love J Cole and will go right for the throat if you have anything bad to say about him. This is an easy fix though for J Cole in regards to his non-fans. All he needs to do is just sound like he wants to be rapping. This would turn any anti J Cole-er into a fan. So please J Cole, you are great at using your voice for change and the evolution of society. Just make it sound like you want to be helping the world like you say and we would all appreciate it so much more.
YouTube | House of Highlights | J. Cole AMAZING Full Halftime Performance at 2019 NBA All-Star Game