J. Cole no longer makes music for the masses -- he makes music for himself. While some can consider that pivot to be selfish, it turns out to be the catalyst for more honest and hyper-aware music. His latest album "4 Your Eyez Only," may have slid under the radar because of the holiday release date, but it's time for the North Carolina rapper to come out of the shadows once and for all.

About the album

"4 Your Eyez Only" is the fourth studio album from American rapper J. Cole. Under the Dreamville Records, Roc Nation, and Interscope Records labels, the record was released on December 9, 2016.

"4 Your Eyez Only" came out exactly two years to the date of his previous album, "2014 Forest Hills Drive," which was widely praised for the musical and lyrical direction it went in. J. Cole seemed to continue further down that path, striving to learn more about himself, his surroundings, and the collapsing world around him.

From commercial to conscious

People will discuss how "4 Your Eyez Only" didn't have any features, just like the last J. Cole album, and they'd certainly be correct in being impressed. The fact that he can hold his own without vocal help, however, is old news. The real celebration should start from the second the album opens up, though. "For Whom the Bell Tolls" is a passion-searing fire demonstrating both physical and lyrical chops, before J.

Cole gets into one of the anthems, "Immortal," chanting "real don't die" and recognizing that both inside the rap game and inside the experiences of how one is raised.

"Deja Vu" is the most popular song from "4 Your Eyez Only," but the next track, "Ville Mentality," starts to really get into the essence of J. Cole. About his trials and tribulations.

About his inner demons. About his "screw everything I'm gonna make it" attitude.

It also sends the album down the path of social justice. The song tackles the delicate stereotype of growing up fatherless in black families, but J. Cole takes his aim at much larger pieces of the pie later. At the end of "Change," there's a eulogy for "another" black man killed in the community, a destructive failure to look out for their own.

"Neighbors" delves deeper into his experiences, basing the song off an incident where white neighbors called the cops on J. Cole and his friends who were just trying to record the very album the song ended up appearing on. Additionally, in "She's Mine Pt. 2," the rapper skewers things like corporations, who stack the deck in favor of capitalistic gains.

Throughout the album, J. Cole is undressing his soul and allowing listeners to see things from his perspective. The record isn't always great from a technical standpoint, and it doesn't have any hits that are going to find mainstream success beyond the rap realm.

But on "4 Your Eyez Only," J. Cole continues to develop his voice as he recognizes his place in the rap pantheon.

He's toeing the line between mainstream and underground, having a big presence but a small, hopeful message. Maybe this album starts getting the rapper the respect he deserves.

Best Song: "Neighbors" - the most political and honest song on "4 Your Eyez Only."

Worst Song: "She's Mine Pt. 1" - this song isn't even bad, showing just how much effort J. Cole put into this record.

Album Rating: A+