J Cole’s 2016 album, 4 Your Eyez Only, was a critically acclaimed body of work that topped the Billboard 200 upon its release. The project was Cole’s fourth album and was put out precisely two years after 2014 Forest Hills Drive.
It’s title-track ‘4 Your Eyez Only’ has been interpreted in several ways. However, there was a specific meaning behind the song. The single, which acts as the album’s outro, is a message to J Cole’s then-newborn son and the daughter of one of his dead best friends.
The track sees Cole speak to his child, rapping, “But Daddy had dreams once, my eyes had a gleam once / Innocence disappeared by the age of eight years / My Pops shot up, drug-related, mama addicted / So Granny raised me in projects where thugs was hanging.”
As detailed in the album’s sixth track, ‘Change,’ the character named James McMillan Jr was a childhood friend of J Cole who got caught up in the streets and was murdered aged 22. ‘Change’ hears Cole speaking to his baby son and Nina, the daughter of McMillan Jr.
During the first three verses of the song, he raps from his late friend’s perspective to Nina recalling his life so she can always have an image of her deceased father. Cole also emcees about the world and the negative ways in which it is changing. In the song, the K.O.D. creator expresses his deep concern for the future of the young.
In an interview with Genius, a Dreamville insider revealed that the storyline of ‘Changes’ is about a real late friend of Cole’s, but his name was changed to James McMillan Jr for the sake of family privacy.
Following the release of 4 Your Eyez Only, a label executive inside Cole’s imprint, Dreamville, opaquely told Complex about Cole’s intention to involve a third person’s perspective, stating, “We saw that, and it was pretty well-analyzed by whoever did that. It’s pretty close to what Cole intended. There is another perspective that he is speaking from on this album, and that’s what he wanted to make clear.”
He concluded, “There are moments where it parallels him, and he speaks from his own perspective. ‘Neighbours’ is a step outside for a second, but it’s still a commentary on the overall theme. But the album is largely from a perspective that is not J. Cole.”
You can listen to 4 Your Eyez Only below.