Named after the address of his childhood home in North Carolina, J. Cole's third studio effort was released with no supporting singles, and there are no featured artists, either, because 2014 Forest Hills Drive is one of those personal, conceptual, and "heavy" albums. Most importantly, it's admirable bordering on excellent, sure to inspire returning fans to herald it as a classic even if it doesn't woo the skeptical, casually wandering out of its intro with two smooth and soulful numbers that are so free, they're just shy of being clumsy. Key cut "January 28th" puts gut-wrenching hard truths of the Pusha-T type ("What's the price for a black man's life?/I check the toe tag, not one zero in sight") next to wobbly wordplay that could have been lifted off some old Digable Planets LP ("Flow is bananas/Here, peel this back"), while "Wet Dreamz" finds J. Cole the producer offering a beat that's rather Alchemist or 9th Wonder inspired, and then slathering it in plush strings for a perfect single on an album that refuses singles. Later, "No Role Modelz" mixes a tribute to the late actor James Avery ("Rest in peace Uncle Phil"), with a bubbling beat that's a variation on cloud-rap (co-produced by Phonix Beats and Cole), and a snarky, snappy set of put downs that are like an elevated Fergie ("I don't want no bitch from reality shows/Out of touch with reality hos"), but all these flights of fancy fly freely since the album lacks an anchor. 2014 Forest Hills Drive comes off as a great, experimental, and advancing mixtape, but it's insider to a fault, as slight as that fault might be.
AllMusic Review by David Jeffries