Personally, J. Cole is one of my favorite rap artists because I feel I relate to him the most. J. Cole was raised in a poor area of North Carolina by a single mother and from a young age he was academically gifted. Though he wasn’t as poor as some of his friends growing up he still lived in a household with struggles and needed to learn how to earn things for himself. He attended St. John’s University after high school, but not because he loved the school or what he was studying but because he wanted to try and get a record deal in New York City. The first time he saw Jay-Z he didn’t even take his CD, but after years of producing and releasing his own music through his independent label Dreamville Records Jay finally realized the talent in the young rapper/producer. Jay put J. Cole on the Blueprint 3 for his biggest record yet and since then he’s taken charge of the hip hop charts and become one of the hip-hop icons of his generation.
Knowing that Cole is college educated definitely sets him apart from most other rap artists, but as you listen to his lyricism in his songs you can truly understand how intelligent the young artist is. In 2Face, a track from his highly popular mixtape “Friday Night Lights” released in 2010, Cole discusses a variety of topics including his main point that every person has two sides, hence the title name. The first two lines of his first first verse start this 2 faced theme as he says, “Yeah the mental state of a young black genius conflicted, the fast life I done seen on the screen is addictive”. Here he conveys that he’s an intelligent young black man that knows better then to live the fast life, yet a part of him is addicted to what it entails. He goes on to explain that people tend to look up to the villains in real life, as he grew up admiring Gangster rappers who lived this crazy movie-style life. He knows better then to be a bad person yet he can not help himself but act this way in certain situations. I believe this is true for most people, sometimes we are mean and sometimes we are nice. Human beings tend to do bad things as well as good, and in the hook J. Cole represents this double life with his line, “Sometimes I scrap, sometimes I’m throwin up the peace sign” explaining that there are times were he is involved in violent behavior and other times he promotes peace.
His second verse goes on to explain how him and his friends were always at the center of the violence growing up, not because they wanted to be “cool” but because it gave them a thrill. He now realizes how stupid they were and what could’ve happened to them, and realizes he needs to take the chance he has been given to be who he truly thinks he can be. The third verse is the most powerful in my opinion though, as he talks about how he’s seen both sides of humanity growing up where he lived. He questions God about his success and asks why other people don’t get the same opportunity. Most importantly he talks about how he’s hustling to make something of himself, pay off his loans, and give back to his mom. His melodic outro is excellent in conveying these topics as he half raps half sings the last 4 lines twice to his mother, “Hey mamma don’t cry, hey oh no, Cause we ain’t gotta worry bout the money no mo, and we ain’t gotta worry bout how them bills get paid, we ain’t gotta worry how them meals get fed”.
Although J. Cole may be distracted by other things that he knows aren’t important at times or are “bad” he is smart enough to realize his overall goal and that is to make a lot of money by producing classic hip hop music and fulfilling his destiny as the “the chosen one” according to himself and many other legendary rappers such as Nas and Jay-Z. Cole has a hard flow yet his lyrics are full of intelligence that you can’t help but nod your head to the beat, and that’s why he is a great artist. I love this song because Cole acknowledges that there exists good and evil within everyone including himself but he won’t let that stop him from accomplishing his goal and taking care of his family.