Please Stop "Hating" J. Cole

I’m going to start this post off with a simple question: why the hell do some people still “hate”–or “hate on,” I can’t really tell the difference at times–J. Cole? I mean, we’re talking about a man who had the first rap album in over twenty years to go platinum without any features is still looked at as a boring cornball. Why? To quote Meek Mill, I wanna know.
Now, I’ll give people the fact that Cole, on his mixtapes, seemed more lyrically aggressive and “hungry.” Take, for instance, The Warm Up versus Cole World. Cole World feels more like a victory lap, a “Mama, I made it” moment versus furthering a burgeoning legacy. I’ll give you that. However, if you can take a sort of victory lap on your first official project, you’ve kind of won. On top of that, Cole’s improved since the Cole World LP.

For starters, he’s relying less and less on corny comparisons and the like to get his point across. Sure, tracks like “Let Nas Down” and “Wet Dreamz” exist. But, even those tracks have a somewhat more profound meaning to them. And yes, that stands even as I’ve clowned and dissected “LND” to a degree. His lyrical content is showing growth and the way he delivers his bars is beginning to (finally) surpass some of those classic mixtapes, such as The Warm Upor Friday Night Lights. In some ways, instead of “matching” those tapes, he’s expanding and thus evolving past those tapes.

Next, his ear for beats is steadily improving. While I’ve enjoyed the Kingdom Hearts sample on the Cole World intro or the flip he used on “Rise and Shine” (ed. note: that’s still one of my favorite Cole songs; he ATE that track alive), he’s becoming smarter about how he uses the samples–and how said samples tell the story within the tracks. That’s a problem for many DIY producers when they’re coming up, but that’s a discussion for another day. We’re talking Cole. For instance, Born Sinner, the use of choral samples, while kind of a “duh” moment, hammered home the emotions, the almost pleas for betterment for himself and his community.

Additionally, it gave the album a bit of a gospel feel, kind of like TLOP, minus Cole saying he’d have sex with Taylor Swift. Look at “Niggaz Know,” for instance. The beat is dramatic as hell, but Cole showcases a better understanding of the flip and a better “ride” within the sample; he doesn’t battle the beat as much.
After BS, we got into 2014 FHD, an album that digs in crates most artists have yet to touch. 

And like Big K.R.I.T. did with Cadillactica, Cole handed some of the production reigns to other producers. He also included a “random” straight-from-Japan sample in the album’s intro. In some ways, one could argue that 2014 FHD was the culmination of Cole’s original path. Obscure samples, goofy-yet-realistic lyrics, superb storytelling, a DITC approach that’d make Dilla proud, and a confidence big enough in other artists to produce dope music for Cole. And it showed through the million-plus records sold and the subsequent tour from the album.

Finally, Cole has shown humility and humanity in a way that not many artists have. He’s openly embraced his status as an icon and a role model—even though, ya know, “No Role Modelz.” Cole’s out here doing charity work and isn’t out and about with anyone who shows their goods to him. He’s working with artists from Kendrick Lamar (where’s the Cole/Kendrick album, guys? Please make it happen) to French Montana and Boosie Badazz. He’s the guy who’s letting his team get shine and promotion, while still not just letting any ol’ body get on the mic and rep Dreamville. What the hell more can he do?
But, still people hate the man. Why? It’s like the guy could drop an album that’s:

  • Illmatic meets Reasonable Doubt meets All Eyez on Me with…
  • Production that’s part- Premo-meets-Dilla and part-uber-radio-friendly Metro Boomin-caliber beats that…
  • Goes diamond ten times over to the point where he’s rivaling MJ for best-selling album of all time…

 …and people’d still find a way to discredit him. Now, I hope that this piece hasn’t, thus far, fully veer into “fanboy territory.” I openly admit that I’m a fan of Cole. So, the hate of a man who’s still out doing things that most artists—or people in general—aren’t doing, it admittedly perturbs me. It’s like he can’t do anything right in the eyes of some of these people. Why?
I have a possible reason, and you won’t like it. Either that, or you’ll think I’m a blind fan boy. Now, Cole, I’ll give it to you that his flow and voice can be…overly calming to the point where you could doze off for a bar or two. However, I’d like to present this argument: people “hate” Cole because he’s atypical and some people don’t really know how to take or interpret that.

He’s not exactly a backpacker. He’s not a trapper. He’s not Kendrick Lamar-ing it and presenting beautifully-choreographed performances that speak on the BLM movement and the plight of blacks in America. He comes off as just a normal guy who happens to make platinum-selling albums about real-life experiences. When you take that into consideration…Cole is boring. He stays out of the news, positively and negatively. He’s, again, an atypical artist. But, does his atypicality deserve hatred or ongoing passive-aggressive indifference?
Hell, no.
So, in short, stop that foolishness, guys. Cole, like Kendrick, K.R.I.T., Drake, Thug (yes, Thug), and so on? He’s a unique talent of the “new era” who shouldn’t just be dismissed, nor should he be “hated.” Enjoy what he provides for us. If you’re not a fan, that’s cool. You’re entitled to that opinion. And, again, I agree about the flow and the corny bars at times. I’m with you. But, don’t just go “hating” the man because his flow is kind of over-chilled or “Wet Dreamz” was a thing.
That just makes you look friggin’ stupid. And while nobody’s perfect, Cole’s music is, in some ways, perfect for this generation of hip-hop.

Photo Credits:, Video still from Cole’s “Apparently” video, promotional shots for Cole’s 2014 Forest Hills Drive album, CBS (for “Letterman” performance still), and “The ComeUp Show” via Flickr.

Speed on the Beat

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