User Score
7.7

Generally favorable reviews- based on 104 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 88 out of 104
  2. Negative: 11 out of 104

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  1. Sep 27, 2011
    10
    If you remove your expectations before popping your headphones in, you will be amazed by the profound lyricism and talent of J. Cole. If you came in expecting to be blown away, chances are you will also emerge in awe of Cole's skill. The more you can relate to his songs, the deeper the connection and the more profound the appreciation you will develop. I don't know what constitutes a classic, but I will definitely be playing this album 10 years from now, along with College Dropout and Late Registration. Hopefully Cole can be this generation's Kanye - without the arrogant demeanor. A+ Collapse
  2. Sep 27, 2011
    10
    This is album is sick! I used to think Drake and Kid Cudi were the cream of the crop, but I was wrong all along. Cole is the embodiment of pure rap. He may not have the greatest hooks for radio play, or the catchiest beats, but he makes up for that with his unparalleled rapping skills. There will always be a few people who will hate, especially given the lofty expectations placed on J. Cole; however, Cole World has shown he is ready to not only become the face of rap for this generation, bu, perhaps, one of the all-time greats. Eminem, Jay-Z, Kanye, Naz and Tupac need company. Expand
  3. Sep 27, 2011
    8
    This is J. Cole's most personal work yet. The Songs fit perfectly with each other and it is worth listening to the intro and interlude. The Intro and Interludes were dynamic and so was the opening song Dollar and Dream 3 which will immediately get you hooked on the track. The Albums gives off different emotions which is a good thing, some are radio-friendly tracks but it IS necessary to listen to the Album all the way through to get a good perspective. Expand
  4. Sep 27, 2011
    10
    JCole really impressed me this debut. Almost all the songs are great. My personal favorite is Breakdown, as I can relate alot to it. It may not be the next Illmatic, but it's still the best mainstream debut album since College Dropout.
  5. N10
    Nov 15, 2011
    10
    Cole World: The Sideline Story!
    This is a really, really good debut album from J. Cole. Such a strong album, damn!
    This is a really talented rapper, and his second album is probably coming next year on summer. And I am really hyped for it. His lyrics is real, not like the most rappers now these day's.
    10 out of 10
  6. Sep 29, 2011
    10
    A great debut by J Cole. He keeps a kind of ying yang balance with the album perfectly balancing his fun singles and dramatic personal tracks to create a great album.
  7. Nov 17, 2011
    8
    Pretty great album by J Cole. The standouts were "Can't Get Enough", "Nobody's Perfect", "In The Morning", "Light Please" and "Never Told". Wonderful debut album.
  8. Sep 27, 2011
    10
    This is the man who will save hip-hop. Such a strong album. All the tracks fit in with one another, and the deep tracks have that authentic Cole feel to them. And the new Dolla and A Dream is so good, did anyone else hear the Kingdom Hearts sample?
  9. Sep 28, 2011
    10
    just purchased this off itunes. it's a good debut...even bigger than drake's and big sean's debut. the anticipation was long but it lived up to the hype. i hope RocNation pushed this album...Breakdown best track on the album.
  10. Oct 4, 2011
    9
    In my opinion J Cole set the bar high for every new hip hop artist. Cole World is a well rounded album better than Thank Me Later , Man on The Moon, and Finally Famous. My personal favorite track s lost ones tells A GREAT story about abortion. i encourage people to hear this album is is hip hops best body of work following the R.E.D album
  11. Sep 28, 2011
    10
    Phenomenal album. Best album this year, almost on par with Watch the Throne, maybe better - I'm still debating that. Hip-hop needs a story-teller like this one. My only gripe is that his hits are poorly done. Work Out is the weakest song on the album yet he's placed it as the last song. Can't get enough is lyrically off, who says you have to drop lyricism to make a hit? Have you heard Eminem's singles? He's at his best when he displays raw emotion, or he's just going off on a lyrical rage, both of which are commonly found on the album. Cole you almost made a classic, next album you better hit the bullseye - I'll be looking forward to it. Expand
  12. Oct 3, 2011
    8
    Such a fantastic first album for J. Cole. I was personally impressed with the album, since his hit song on the radio is "Work Out" which to me doesn't even compare to most of the other songs on the album (in fact, "Work Out" is a bonus song which i think is fitting). J. Cole seems to be an excellect story-teller and when he just wants to rhyme on a beat, he kills it. My personal favorites are "Dollar and a Dream 3", "Cole World", "Lost Ones", and "Rise and Shine". However, i think that every song on this album is very good for not just J. Cole, but for any rapper. Already can't wait for what he has in store for us next. Expand
  13. Nov 10, 2012
    10
    this album is incredible!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! j cole is one of the best lyricist in the game right now as well as one of the hottest rapper to!!! just can't stop listening to MR. NICE WATCH AND NOBODY'S PERFECT!!! A dope album for a dope artiste!!!
  14. Jun 18, 2013
    0
    The only pro of this album is the fact I never have to go to a drug store again to get some nyquil. So the $10 I paid for this album will pay itself back.
  15. Oct 17, 2011
    10
    under-rated by professional music critics, best HIP-HOP album of the year so far by far, dont understand how tha carter 4 sold almost a million in its first week when this only sold 200,000 should have been the other way around
  16. Oct 7, 2011
    10
    Well, it's been a year I haven't listened to a great rap album ( the last one being "My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy") and "Cole World: The Sideline Story" is just one of them. I've loved J. Cole since last year, when I've heard him for the first time with 'Young Simba'. I thought his flow was great. But he has changed, to better. His debut album is a great example of modern rap with a 90's twist of hip hop. It's definitely the best debut album since 'College Dropout'. Every song sounds great. I haven't skip any track. I'm blown away. The album is well put together, and my favorite one is 'Dollar And a Dream' and 'Nobody's Perfect'. Best line so far: "This is for all the fans that waited, the **** **** that hated, old hoes we dated, look mama, we made it". I love that line. J. Cole will remain the rapper I'm looking forward the most, after Struka, of course. Expand
  17. Oct 27, 2011
    6
    This is a desent album, it's not the best. I'm glad that it reach number 1 on the US Billboard 200. Nice collaboration with Missy Elliott, Drake, Jay-Z, and Trey Songz. He needs to take his time on his next album.
  18. Sep 28, 2011
    8
    People looking for a good album with some meaningful lyrics should get this album because its perfect for you. If your like me and have been a j cole fan for some time and have listened to most of his mixtapes then you may be slightly disappointed by this album, although that doesn't mean its not good, its just that it hasn't quite lived up to what i've come to expect from j cole. It is still one of the best rap albums out at the moment. The standout tracks for me would have to be the lost ones, mr nice watch, work out and A dollar and A dream III. Expand
  19. Nov 7, 2011
    8
    I was expecting so much worst with this album but I got so much better. J.Cole's lyrics were good, the production was good. He had appearances by Missy Elliot and Jay Z (two legends). I was hoping for a little bit more mello album but I like this one I give it a 8.
  20. Sep 27, 2011
    6
    Not a bad effort for a debut album considering he himself produced most of the tracks. Unfortunately he doesn't bring anything new to the table. Besides the average sounding voice of his, he doesn't quite have that fast but smooth feel like flow that a top tier mc like nas possesses.

    Where would it stand along the other great debut albums such as Reasonable Doubt, Illmatic, Ready to Die,
    Only Built for Cuban Linx, even College Dropout ? (and more of course ...)


    Cole World: A Sideline Story falls short, I expected SO much more.

    6/10
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  21. Sep 27, 2011
    7
    I'm sick of critics now n days. theres no way this album is anything less than great. these critics like allmusic and rollingstone think they know everything but they just dont. tha carter 4 was one of the worst albums ive ever heard and allmusic gives it a 4 out of 5, thats insanely ridiculous and now rolling stone is gonna say that this album is at best a 7? come on now, lets put all the bs aside and be realistic. j cole is a genius in the studio and while he may need a little help with producing his lyrics are off the charts real. everything cole says is completely real and relative to **** that people go through all the time. plus, how r u gonna go out and give his mixtapes great reviews and then say that his debut album isnt that good? 1/3 of this album is previous mixtapes songs and the other 2/3 is just great new songs that cole spits fire on. 9 out of 10 tho for me cus i still think the best for cole is ahead of him. Expand
  22. Sep 28, 2011
    10
    This album is what Hip Hop is supposed to be. To get it, you need to go deeper than only the production, which by the way is on point. Obviously there's the fun songs, but there's also the deep and emotional songs speaking on subjects never heard before in rap. Best songs: Lost Ones, Breakdown, Lights Please, Dollar And A Dream III, Never Told, Rise And Shine (ok, gotta stop now before I mention the whole album). We must also consider that this is a debut album. Cole has to please old fans, new fans and of course his record label. He's also young, so the following albums can only be even better. So buy this album. Ten times if you want. It's a Cole World. Expand
  23. Sep 28, 2011
    8
    j.Cole has arrived officially that is.Its a solid debut but he could have reached out to more experienced producers to help him, stand out tracks are 'Lost ones' and 'Lights please'. I expect more from his sophomore album great future ahead.
  24. Sep 28, 2011
    9
    When I heard this album, I was reminded of the myseducation of Lauryn Hill. That in itself warrants a great score. The album isn't perfect, but it is probably the best album I have heard this year.
  25. Oct 2, 2011
    10
    Great album with a variety of styles. J. Cole really widens his variety of rapping on this great debut album. From his heart-warming deep songs, to club-style hits, J. Cole releases a rare great debut album. A Classic.
  26. Oct 7, 2011
    10
    wasnt too sold on him before listening to this album..thought he was a bit preachy in some of his raps, not my style..That being said, I love this album. It started off a bit slow on songs 1-5 (besides Dollar & Dream)..but the second half is phenomenal.Also beats are hot, which J. Cole produced most himself. My favorite tracks, Gods Gift, Cole World, Rise & Shine & Nobody Perfect. Check this out if you like hip-hop. Expand
  27. Oct 25, 2011
    10
    This is the most complete album since Kanye's "The College Dropout." Cole World features all the necesary ingredients to become an instant classic, a masterpiece. I don't use this gently, but J. Cole fulfilled all expectations and brought the game back to its place. The album only has a mere 4 features which are all perfect. People need to stop comparing Cole to Drake. They're both great, Cole's WAY better, and Cole actually raps more than 50% of the time.

    Cole = Future
    Expand
  28. Oct 28, 2011
    10
    For a debut album, it was a strong performance. At times, it seems like standards weren't met, but some songs truly made up for it. Ladies and gentlemen, J Cole has arrived.
  29. Nov 15, 2011
    10
    Lyrically, this album is close to nothing that we've seen since Cole's last mixtape, 'Friday Night Lights.' For him to provide such insightful lyrics at the same time as maintaining such a steady and strong production from Cole is something that hardly ever occurs. THIS is what hip-hop is about.
  30. Dec 25, 2011
    7
    I liked this album. J Cole is a great rapper, he came in the rap game with confidence. He has a potential and a long way to go. He lyrics are tight and his flow is good. He can only get better.
  31. Feb 17, 2012
    7
    This is a very impressive debut album by J. Cole. There are both shining moments and low points on the album. J. Cole still needs to find that sound that will work in future albums. On this album, however, there is a solid balance mainstream hip-hop and cross over hip-hop featured. The tracks showcasing his hard hitting punchlines and rhythm over the beats are Who Dat, Work Out and Mr. Nice Watch. There is a bright future with this young up and coming artist. Truly a gifted lyricist that can only grow in talent with the potential demonstrated in this debut. Expand
  32. Feb 8, 2012
    7
    Very good debut from J. Cole. I still think his best stuff is his mixtape Friday Night Lights but this is still great. With a smooth appearance from Missy Elliot, Nobody's Perfect is one of my favorite songs of 2011.
  33. Feb 24, 2012
    8
    Strong debut by J Cole. J Cole impressed me with this debut with his lyrics and his aggression towards the album. This best "Pregame" & Friday Nigh Lights. Personally my favorite songs were "Breakdown" & "Mr.Nice Watch"
  34. Jul 5, 2012
    8
    It's unnervingly difficult to describe what makes Cole World: The Sidline Story so good.

    His stories have been told before. His beats are somewhat underwhelming, at least, as compared to a Kanye West or a Pharrell Williams. He doesn't perform the lyrical acrobatics that Jay-Z or Andre 3000 are inclined to perform.

    Somehow, however, J. Cole's debut is refreshing, engaging, warm, and
    enduringly likable. He isn't the cleverist, but he is clever. He isn't the rawest, but he is raw. He name drops student loan companies, muses on how white people are surprised by his manners, rhymes 'Barbados' with 'potatoes', and compellingly sends messages about sex and its potential use as a distraction from racism and struggle.

    His voice is lush and awake. I'm not quite sure why he's compared to the monotonous, somewhat lazy Drake. Drake's quiet crooner schtick is boring now. Nothing is boring about J. Cole's growl. He sounds hungry.

    What rappers like Big Sean and Wale lack, J. Cole delivers with resounding intensity: PRESENCE. His growl forces you to listen. His rhymes may not perplex you, but they certainly will impress you. His content isn't marked by originality, but the delivery of it all is moving and intense and better with every listen. With J. Cole, you won't find euro-electro-dance-trash backdrops, or oodles of superstar guest appearances. You will, however, find music that is honest and studious and authentically hip-hop.
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  35. Feb 6, 2014
    7
    J. Cole's talent and lyrical prowess is evident throughout The Sideline Story, but he doesn't come off confident and mature enough to pull it all together. He should definitely steer away from dependence on production, like he does on "Work Out." Even though listening to the entire album gradually gets increasingly monotonous, there's several songs that stand out. Also, Jay Z, as expected, totally blows Cole away on "Mr. Nice Watch" which shows that Cole still has a ways to go to fully develop his considerable talents. ~ 6.6/10

    Best track: "Lost Ones" -- Unlike several other tracks on the album this emotion seems genuine, and Cole does a great job with storytelling.

    Other notable tracks: "Sideline Story", "Dollar And A Dream III", "Lights Please", "Cole World", "Nobody's Perfect", "Rise And Shine" & "Who Dat"
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  36. Jun 24, 2013
    5
    Boring. It`s just boring. Nothing about this album engages be or hooks me in any sort of meaningful way. The songs aren't bad, but they're just not that interesting either
  37. Jul 21, 2013
    9
    I really like this album, and I really like J. Cole. He is what rap music has been waiting for....for real, I can listen to it all the way through without skipping a song. That is when you know you've made a good album.
Metascore
75

Generally favorable reviews - based on 20 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 19 out of 20
  2. Negative: 0 out of 20
  1. He's worth the shot Jay couldn't resist giving him. But he's still not comfortable enough or clever enough.
  2. Nov 4, 2011
    70
    Cole World reveals its maker to be a technically superb rapper with great production skills, albeit currently exploring rags-to-riches tales lacking in consistent vigour.
  3. Oct 19, 2011
    70
    Despite the flaws, Cole shapes up his debut to be a well-rounded effort.