Taking a shot at constructing Aaron Cole’s “Cole Season” puzzle.
It’s all speculation, but it’s still fun to dream.
Aaron Cole has been the busiest artist of 2018. After dropping his major label debut Virginia Boy in May, he could have surfed the wave of critical acclaim well into 2019, but rather than bask in success, he plunged right back into the studio. He seems to be every artists’ weapon of choice, graciously lending his talents on the mic in the form of a searing verse or catchy hook, but his ubiquitous presence has not diminished the precious commodity of his contributions, which has led to an impressive run of guest features (he still has more on the way). Yet his greatest feat this year was undoubtedly launching “Cole Season”: a bi-weekly offering where he committed to drop a single every two weeks, usually accompanied by a music video. In an oversaturated market, he kept his brand strong, and in a tsunami of music releases, listening Cole’s songs was like finding buried treasure; even if every “New Music Friday” brought lackluster projects, I could always rely on Cole’s gift, whether in the form of an introspective lullaby or bombastic turn-up record. Beginning in June with “Off My Back” and concluding with “Patient with Me” in November, Cole released twelve tracks in total, all featuring his signature blend of voracious rapping coupled with soothing vocals.
Indeed, “Cole Season” is a fitting title for these releases: Cole’s single drops felt like episodes of a TV show that you would stay up into the early morning hours for. Each single presented itself with a new “storyline” and you never knew who would pop up for a guest appearance (though since the majority of the tracks were produced by friend Cole Walowac, he definitely counts as a series regular). At first glance it is easy to view each single as a stand-alone affair or a loosie that did not quite make the thematic cut for Virginia Boy, but upon closer examination these tracks can all be rearranged to resemble chapters of a much bigger story. There is more musical tissue and sinews that connects them than meets the eye that if properly organized, could make up the newest Goatee Records’ signee’s debut album. Cole gave us the pieces…now it is time to construct his puzzle.
As a quick recap, the tracks were originally released as such:
- Off My Back (released 6/29)
- Motions (released 7/13)
- Down Like That (feat. Koryn Hawthorne) [released 7/27]
- Yo Handz (feat. Caleb Cruise) [released 8/10]
- Exclusive (released 8/24)
- Promised Land (released 9/7)
- Mama Said (released 9/21)
- Making History (released 10/5)
- Einstein (released 10/26)
- Can’t Relate (feat. Th3 Saga & Kaleb Mitchell) [released 10/26]
- Greed Money Power (feat. Beleaf & Derek Minor) [released 11/9]
- Patient with Me (released 11/16)
My proposed reordered tracklist:
- Greed Money Power (feat. Beleaf & Derek Minor)
- Can’t Relate (feat. Th3 Saga & Kaleb Mitchell)
- Off My Back
- Promised Land
- Making History
- Down Like That (feat. Koryn Hawthorne)
- Mama Said
- Patient with Me
- Yo Handz (feat. Caleb Cruise)
Without further ado, let’s dive into the Cole Season: The Album.
Kicking off the project in cinematic fashion, Cole throws listeners right into his world, one run by “Greed Money (&) Power.” The aggression of the beat is matched by the uncompromising lyrics as Beleaf and Derek Minor speak of their hardships firsthand: “When I go outside I take a risk, put my hands up and make a fist” and “I ain’t even gotta a gun but you’re still afraid.” Cole’s deadpan delivery of the repetitive hook only further highlights hostility and harshness; listeners are given no time to breathe but are enveloped by the sounds of Cole’s home. The track does a good job of introducing listeners to Cole’s upbringing and sets the stage for his come-up later on the project. Likewise, if the first track was Cole simply describing his world with no filter, then the follow-up reveals more of his own perspective, stating how he “Can’t Relate” with those who are “Doing anything to get paid”, mockingly stating “I guess you really bout that fake / I guess that’s really what you praise.” The track’s energy is similar to the previous, and guest stars Th3 Saga and Kaleb Mitchell flesh out Cole’s world even more in their verses.
“Off My Back” is a sonic shift for the project; the beat goes hard but is a little more reigned in than previous offerings. Aaron performs with nonchalance, dancing nimbly between the lines of rapping and singing. Though it lacks the belligerency of past tracks, the content serves as the continuity: Cole still raps about broken community and relationships and muses over what it would look like to escape and put these problems past him. That dream becomes a reality as he finally steps into the “Promised Land” which serves as more of an official intro to the album. Equal parts uproarious, uplifting, and inspiring, Cole’s talents are on full display with this song but he retains none of the harshnesses; his tone is lighter and controlled. He looks forward to the future ahead now that he has made it from the bottom, rapping “The Promised Land is awaiting / Jesus ain’t die for this we still dreaming up in the basement / I know God got a plan being patient boy we gon’ make it like.” “Einstein” serves as a final ode and thanksgiving to God before Cole channels his energy into “Making History.” After the talking about hardship throughout the past singles, Cole is ready to celebrate. He speaks now from a position of victory and not lament. Vociferous and bombastic, this record is a celebratory anthem and climax of the album, bristling with unmatched heat and ferocity.
One could be forgiven for thinking “Making History” is laced with some hubris, and this is what makes the placement “Exclusive” (my personal favorite) and “Motions” key. In both tracks, Cole speaks of love unrequited and its tragic aftermath, going from “I’m just tryna show you I’m devoted / You just got a way with my emotions” to “Just cause she go to church don’t mean she won’t play me.” “Down Like That” then becomes a bounce back anthem, with Cole refusing to let this setback derail him, stating “I was built for this thing / God knew I was built for this thing” expressing his ability to overcome trials of any kind, whether they be the traumas that he navigated in his youth or the growing pains of romance now. Koryn Hawthorne echoes this sentiment on the infectious hook: “He made me for this moment I can’t lose.”
As the album stretches to a close, it is only appropriate that Cole takes a step back into the past and remembers what his “Mama Said.” Hooks are Cole’s bread and butter and the one on this track is definitely the best on the whole album: “Cause He ain’t brought me this far just to leave me”; it is a simple truth but when sung with Cole’s honesty and resolve, it hits differently. The final track, “Patient with Me”, is a rousing and celebratory anthem of God’s faithfulness despite Cole’s struggles as he’s “been working” on his troubles. He reflects on the end of his journey and knows that while there has an abundance tragedy, there has been no deficit of faithfulness either. Cole’s still growing and knows where he ought to be. The whole tone is moving and a perfect conclusion to the album. If “Patient with Me” is the final scene of Cole’s film, then “Yo Handz” is the post-credits scene: regardless of where Cole decides to go from here, he knows that life is only in God’s hands and he has nothing to fear. It is an energizing and yet all-encompassing end to an already stellar album and is a summary of all that has come before while also looking ahead.
There you have it; Aaron Cole’s twelve random singles rearranged as a cohesive album. Obviously, this is all speculation, but it was still fun to dream. How would y’all organize them? Comment below with your own versions and check the Cole Season: The Album playlist on Spotify here.*