Edge, Music

‘4 Your Eyez Only’ offers glimpse into J. Cole’s life through documentary, music videos

In “4 Your Eyez Only,” we get a glimpse into the eyes of J. Cole – both as a director and as an artist. The documentary, which debuted on HBO April 15, spans nearly an hour and features interviews and conversations from Cole’s journey throughout the South. Between these clips, from Atlanta to his hometown of Fayetteville, North Carolina, Cole weaved in seven new music videos from his “4 Your Eyez Only” album as well as one new track.

The documentary and music videos, co-directed by Cole and Scott Lazer, are visually spectacular. A nostalgic-wash filter changes the colors of many images on screen. Perhaps it is an intentional tactic used to bring attention to color or race. Cole’s performance of an elastic, silhouetted dance during “For Whom the Bell Tolls” is a highlight of the film.

“4 Your Eyez Only” is a documentary of the people. In Baton Rouge, Louisiana, he interviews survivors of Hurricane Katrina. In Jonesboro, Arkansas, he tours a museum dedicated to local black history. Throughout the film, Cole addresses social ills through the lens of conversations between blacks in several cities.

In Ferguson, Missouri, Cole meets with a friend of Michael Brown and discusses his legacy in an emotional conversation. In the background, Cole’s “Be Free,” which was released in response to police brutality and the death of Brown, plays. The documentary is visceral and vibrant. It explores the themes of his album of the same name. It explores the human condition and one man’s response to a country stricken by fear, racism and a myriad of socioeconomic problems that cripple a nation from ever achieving equality.

The documentary’s climax is during the song “Change.” The same visual techniques are used to create a tranquil vibe that resonates with the clichéd refrain: “The only real change come from inside.” The song functions as a call to arms to resist social norms and systematic, institutional discrimination. The scene of Cole running is reminiscent of the opening of “Chariots of Fire.” Like Harold Abrahams, Cole is running to overcome prejudice.

While “4 Your Eyez Only” tackles many issues, it fails to paint a complete picture. The 50-minute running time limits the scope of this documentary. It feels like Cole and Lazer had a vision for the film that may just be for their eyes only. For us, we get an extended music video that reminds us of Beyoncé’s “Lemonade” and Frank Ocean’s “Endless” without the full visual album experience.

For Cole, who released another documentary before the “4 Your Eyez Only” album, this documentary serves as an album extension. It is an introduction to the man and the music behind J. Cole. As the film comes to a close and the outro song of the album plays, the viewers are left with a positive feeling that through strength, change will come.

Stars: 4/5

April 21, 2017

Reporters

Tristan Niskanen


Around the Web
  • Miami Herald
  • UM News
  • HurricaneSports

At their best, they are UM’s most dynamic players on each side of the ball. But the Ahmmon Richards ...

A day after practicing in the Carol Soffer Football Indoor Practice Facility for the first time in s ...

It appears that at least one LSU receiver won’t be available at the University of Miami football ope ...

After the Miami Hurricanes football team spent part of its practice on Monday in a torrential downpo ...

Nothing like a comic book cover on steroids to get University of Miami and LSU football fans juiced ...

Intergroup Dialogue, soon to be offered as a course, fosters a sense of belonging, an appreciation f ...

Aretha Franklin and her music defined “what is soul” to generations of music lovers. ...

The University of Miami kicked into high gear to welcome thousands of new students and ensure move-i ...

UM President Julio Frenk welcomes first-year and transfer students to UM in signature ’Cane Kickoff ...

Miami Law conducts its inaugural Legal Impact Hack for first-year students. ...

The University of Miami volleyball team won its exhibition match over FIU, 3-0, Saturday at the Knig ...

Coming off a road win in its season opener, the University of Miami soccer team will welcome crossto ...

In head coach Sarah Barnes' debut at the helm, the University of Miami soccer team won its seas ...

The Hurricanes practiced in the Carol Soffer Indoor Practice Facility for the first time ever on Fri ...

Malik Rosier, Travis Homer and Ahmmon Richards are key returning playmakers, but they are just the b ...

TMH Twitter
About TMH

The Miami Hurricane is the student newspaper of the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla. The newspaper is edited and produced by undergraduate students at UM and is published weekly in print on Tuesdays during the regular academic year.