Last Tuesday J. Cole graced the stage of Burruss Auditorium, giving a phenomenal performance as the headliner of this year’s Homecoming concert. Ever since I heard his single “Lights Please” a few years ago, I have been eager to see him live and this recent show somehow exceeded my already sky-high expectations.
Cole has been making himself a prominent member of the rap community for some time, and his latest album, Born Sinner, has been receiving favorable reviews from critics.
His obvious talent as a performer aside, J.Cole’s admirable personal life and meaningful lyrics make him an anomaly in today’s rap music culture, and should make him an idol for both fellow musicians and fans.
Cole embodies the balance between academics and pursuit of a passion that young people should possess in their lives. While producing his earlier material he was also enrolled in college and graduated magna cum laude from St. John’s University.
His fame is deserved as it has come to him by his music, not scandalous tabloids, which are unfortunately all too common in the entertainment industry.
His songs do include explicit language and graphic material, but it is not in excess, and when it does occur, it is done in a tasteful manner. Cole’s songs often discuss important issues that are usually not brought up in rap music, and if they are, other performers tend to belittle them.
The powerfully honest song “Lost Ones” tells the story of a young, unmarried couple dealing with an unplanned pregnancy. The point of view of the male finding out about the pregnancy has inclusive language, using “we” when a concern for how to raise the child is brought up. The bookends of the verse demonstrate that he views the choice to keep the child or proceed with an abortion as the mother’s sole decision.
J. Cole commendably takes on the voice of a community that disrespects women in this situation, exposing how unjust that is.
The video to “Crooked Smile”, released this summer as part of the Born Sinner album, parallels the events leading to the death of Aiyana Stanley-Jones. Ten-year-old Jones was accidently shot and killed during a police raid on a neighbor’s apartment. The “Crooked Smile” video resurrects the heartbreaking feelings of distress associated with this type of untimely death. The video was not released to promote his album — Cole wanted to honor the young girl and signify that her death was not completely in vain. This sentiment and public connection to community goes beyond just “repping” your hometown like so many rap artists do.
For the countless videos and songs boasting extravagant cars, exuberant amounts of money and promoting a lifestyle that only exists for an elite few — watching a rapper take a stand and bring to light piercing issues is refreshing.