Rap artist J. Cole released his new and highly anticipated album “KOD” on April 20. The conscious rap star’s album touches on themes of drug addiction, dark pasts and the state of today’s youth.
Like Cole’s past albums “KOD” has already received high critical acclaim and has broken Spotify and Apple Music first day streaming records, previously held by Taylor Swift and Drake.
Though the album features many stand out singles, like “Kevin’s Heart,” “Once an Addict” and, the namesake, “KOD,” it is the twelfth and final song on the album that has received most of the attention. The song “1985” not only serves as a strong finish to Cole’s album, it also takes shots at some of the younger artists coming up in the rap game today.
Historically, Cole has been a rap artist people love to hate. Whether that be because his conscious rap style is seen as too soft and emotional, or because the tradition of hating on those who are most successful is still alive and well.
Either way, after a fairly long and successful career, Cole is used to diss-tracks and other rappers coming for his hypothetical title in the game.
However, as noted in the song “1985,” Cole is actually surprised by who his latest critics have been. New and younger artists like Lil Pump and SmokePurpp have both tweeted distaste for Cole in recent years.
SmokePurpp has made it clear that he feels his talent measures up to that of Cole’s, even stating he and Lil Pump could beat Cole and Kendrick Lamar, another impressive lyricist, in a rap battle.
Lil Pump even took the spat to the next level, previewing to his fans last April a sample of his song titled “F*ck J. Cole.” Lil Pump never released the full song. And hopefully he did not waste his time making a completed version.
Thankfully it does not seem like Cole or anyone else with any sort of real appreciation and admiration for the rap game see any relevance in these comments. Cole’s success is incomparable and for extremely young artists like SmokePurpp and Lil Pump to even think their careers measure up is comical.
With that being said, sometimes amateurs like Lil Pump and SmokePurpp need to be put in their place. Luckily for them Cole does not take a career ruining approach with his lyrics in his “1985” response to their comments, but instead places himself in more of a big brother type role for the rap.
Cole initially raps “Come here lil’ man, let me talk with ya. See if I can paint for you the large picture,” addressing the two newbies. Throughout his long one verse song, Cole attempts to get the message of understanding one’s own impact across to the younger generation, addressing the importance of acting smart and responsible in the face of fame and fortune.
Cole then breaks down why it is so problematic for the two artists, as well as others who only follow trends to receive popularity and success, to perform without an understanding of their influence on others. He raps, “But have you ever thought about your impact? These white kids love that you don’t give a f*ck. Cause that’s exactly what’s expected when your skin black.” Cole follows this up by stating he has to keep it real, saying “They wanna be black and think your song is how it feels.”
This is what makes the song special from my perspective. Cole does not just rub in the fact that he understands the craft, the business and the game better, he also understands his huge societal impact. He writes about his tough experiences before he was able to blow through money and live a lavish lifestyle. While he recognizes these artists to be young and still maturing, he does not just give them a cultural hall pass.
Like Cole, I feel it is irresponsible of these young artists to follow music trends blindly just in an attempt to gain fame and money. Their audiences get such a skewed understanding of our current social climate and interconnected problems involving drugs, racism and poverty. These topics are lost on the younger generation of listeners.
As I understand, Cole does not want to “diss” those trying to establish their place in the rap game, but instead instructs them on the proper way to make a career and use their platform.
If artists like Lil Pump and SmokePurpp continue to avoid and ignore messages like Cole’s, I am confident everything Cole speaks of, regarding the loss of their success, is accurate and inevitable. An artist with integrity will always and should always remain in the game a lot longer than any Soundcloud “artist.”