It’s hard to imagine a time where J. Cole was a rookie in the rap game, with the words “buzzing” still associated with his moniker. And yet, ten years ago when he released his debut album Cole World: The Sideline Story, he was still looking to make a welcome first impression. Given that much of Cole’s appeal was (and remains) his lyricism, it’s no surprise that the Dreamville rapper opted to kick things off with an impactful opening statement.
At nearly five minutes, “Dollar And A Dream III” feels like a fitting way to start a major label debut, setting a tone that bars can and should be expected. Scored by a majestic instrumental reminiscent of The Legend Of Zelda, Cole spits the lore of a legend in the making. Where older artists tend to benefit from hindsight and introspection, the Cole of ten years prior rapped with a notable hunger, a drive to rise above and truly seize the opportunity at hand.
Given that The Off-Season remains an Album Of The Year contender ten years later, it’s safe to say that the dream was achieved and then some. Revisit where Cole’s solo discography began right now, on the milestone anniversary of Cole World: The Sideline Story.
When everyone I see is broke, get lost in weed smoke
Knowin’ it make it worse, thoughts roam uncontrollably
Barely trustin’ ni**as, over a decade they been knowin’ me
Shit, life at the bottom, nobody but God got em’
They say he wouldn’t leave me, yet I’m fallin’ like it’s Autumn
Tell me, what do you do just when you’re on your last dollar
And the stress of this mess you in can make your ass holla?