Rapper Jermaine Lamarr Cole, better known as J. Cole, has been a well-known figure in the industry for some years now. Active in music from a young age, Cole has only continued to inspire and enthral his fanbase since the beginning of his career – and that hasn’t changed lately, as he just released his new mixtape, Might Delete Later, two weeks ago. Consisting of 12 tracks, this is his seventh full-length piece and fourth mixtape. Might Delete Later dropped spontaneously, with no warning to audiences, and undeniably underscores the competitive streak Cole exhibits in his music.


The album opens with ‘Pricey’, a collaboration featuring Ari Lennox, Gucci Mane & Young Dro. Peppered with cultural references, including Rick and Morty, Cole immediately launches into the theme of rags to riches. By acknowledging his growth while honouring his roots, Cole tells the listener how his narrative is one of overcoming struggles and baseline survival. The combined vocals on this opener may provide one of the highlights on the whole record, as Lennox’s verse acts as an anchor.




We then get ‘Crocodile Tearz’, an undeniable nod to the recently resolved situations between Cole and other rappers, notably Kendrick Lamar and Drake. Opening with the lines ‘Hall of Famers / hungrier than all the newcomers’, Cole makes his intentions to become one of the rapping greats clear in this track. He even compares his album The Fall Off to Jay Z’s 1996 album Reasonable Doubt. While the album was Jay Z’s first, it’s still widely considered one of the best in his 13-album discography. Cole making this comparison will no doubt make fans more intrigued to hear the highly teased album, considering this is the level of quality he is promising to deliver. With the track guided by a sinister piano progression, this ominous sound lends credibility to the theory that The Fall Off will be Cole’s retirement album.  




The desire to dominate continues in ‘Ready ’24.’ Cole and featuring artist Cam’ron both use this track, in both its title and overall lyricism throughout, to emphasise that 2024 will be each artist’s year of dominance. While both already have impactful careers, the song is a testament to how they plan on amplifying this as the year progresses.




‘Hunting Wabbitz’ is track 4. It’s a bit of a strange track when considered against the rest of the album, as the instrumentals are more psychedelic, and the vocals more relaxed. The introduction doesn’t entirely match the song’s themes, as it samples from Wabbit Season, a popular online video touted as funny and disturbing. But the song once again references Cole’s desire to be on the up and up, while boasting about his achievements, especially in the lines ‘make big chips / stack till they are tall as Kristaps.’ It’s hard to know exactly what the interludes mean, but it does make an interesting juxtaposition.




‘H.Y.B’ is another collaboration, this time with Central Cee and Bas. The track opens slowly and contemplatively and serves as both a celebration and a warning about the lifestyle that fame brings. They rap about dealing with ‘attention-seekers’, paparazzi, and the possessions they have access to. On the flip side, the line ‘hide your b*tch, hide your wife’ comes across almost like a thinly veiled threat to those in their circles, as they know the temptation their lifestyle could pose to others. It’s like they’re telling people their existence alone can be an issue for their relationships, indicating it’s best to keep people away from their circle of orbit. It’s a strange track, as it could be highly self-aware, but also one of the more uncomfortable ones to listen to.



There’s a slight thematic shift in the music when listeners reach the track ‘Fever.’ Centred more around romantic relationships and partners, and it’s more reminiscent, almost haunting. The introduction comes in the form of a voicemail from someone, telling Cole ‘not to forget about them.’ It does still have that hint of Cole nodding to his prowess, featuring the line ‘best rapper alive sh*t.’ ‘Fever’ is undoubtedly the most romantic song on the mixtape, even if it doesn’t sound like the type of song you’d typically classify as that. 



Cole pulls from a very well-known saying to inspire the title of the next track, ‘Sticks n Stonez.’ For those potentially not in the know, the saying he’s referring to is ‘sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.’ While this could be alluding to all kinds of things, it’s clear that this could be about the recent lyric controversy, as he raps ‘saying my name in a verse will kill.’ However, it also illustrates his proven ability to strike a balance between both underground and commercial success, and how it reflects his credibility in the rap scene. It’s common for rappers to mention each other in their music, and Cole uses the famous idiom to exemplify this. While not explicitly mentioning anyone, he also says in the first verse that others’ music starts ‘having that surface feel’, implying that some artists become out of touch with their message and consequently their music begins to lack real depth.



A transition is then undertaken for track ‘Pi.’ The song samples Kevin Moore’s ‘Rainmaker’ as well as Kanye West & Jay Z’s ‘Otis’, though it’s not as strong as either of those songs. 



Bas then comes back for track 9, ‘Stealth Mode.’ It’s another thematic shift, centering around reflections on self-growth, and navigating challenges. The song deftly explores the complexities of relationships, using the pressures of fame as an anecdote to do this. Instrumentally, its strong backing vocals make the song quite intense, but it also provides an almost humming sound throughout, creating a nice balance. 



‘3001’ is one of the singles J. Cole released before the full mixtape dropped. It’s very different to the preceding track ‘Stealth Mode’, particularly in its sonics. Opening with a bass-heavy beat, the song’s beginning throbs rather than shimmers, accentuated by heightened synths. It makes the track sound relentless and powerful, particularly as introspection is seemingly abandoned in favour of raw aggression. The lyricism is targeted, and ferocious, showcasing Cole’s determination to stay at the top of the game without question or challenge.



Listeners are then given track 11, ‘Trae, the Truth in Ibiza.’ It serves as one of the more moving tracks on the album if you can classify it as that per se. Cole calls out his team in the lyrics, saying ‘what would I do with no team / I wouldn’t do anything.’ With the semi-constant themes of reputation and greatness that have come in the tracks beforehand, this is a refreshing lyric to hear. Cole acknowledges that while he is wildly successful singularly, that success is also rightfully creditable to those around him. Much of this mixtape has been Cole reflecting on his journey, and it seems fitting to have ‘Trae the Truth in Ibiza’ as one of the final tracks. It feels like a full-circle moment. He again references The Fall Off in the last verse, a subtle indication that this project may be coming to listeners’ ears sooner than they think.



In the most baffling moment of the album, I was scrolling streaming platforms when I noticed that track 12, ’7 Minute Drill’ is currently unplayable on Spotify. As a newbie to J. Cole’s music, this surprised me, but it may not to others. You can still find the track on other streaming services, just not the ‘typical’ ones, as fans have already uploaded to YouTube and the like. 

Overall, Might Delete Later is a good piece of work. With plenty of compelling elements throughout, Cole cements himself as a force to be reckoned with – in not only a lyrical sense but a textural and rhythmic one too. Now that he’s made it extremely clear that he’s more motivated and confident than ever – it’ll simply be a waiting game to see what he comes out with next. Whether that’s The Fall Off or another project entirely, fans will just have to find out in time.