Opinion: Why J. Cole is one of the most woke rappers in the game right now

Jayah Caley, Review Staff

Feature Photo By: Jayah Caley – Sophomores Adrian Marquez and Kaleb Negussie pose as Adrian listens to the K.O.D. and Kaleb has his skullcandy headphones in the trash suggesting that the album is not the greatest. Adrian said, “This album is straight heat, Cole really is the goat.” 

On the night of September 10th, I was on my way downtown to the Pepsi Center on my way to see Jermaine Lamarr Cole, famously known as J. Cole, with my sister and some other friends.

I remember blasting J. Cole’s music and talking about him as an artist.

On September 9, 2018, I went to the Pepsi Center to see J. Cole perform in person. It was definitely one of the best shows I’ve been to. He was so raw and expressed so much passion throughout the whole night. (Jayah Caley)

As we were talking, his “wokeness” (being aware of social issues) was brought up.

At this point in time, I wasn’t completely convinced that J. Cole was a rapper that was considered woke — most rappers that are hitting the top of the charts are not producing music with controversial aspects: addressing racism, xenophobia, sexism, and so forth.

Frankly, I was only attending the concert because my sister bought our tickets.

Yet, after this one fateful night, I now believe that J. Cole is arguably one of the most woke and influential American rappers of this generation.

Junior Kayla Jean explained to me that the songs on Cole’s latest album K.O.D. (Kids on Drugs) had multiple meanings. The one that stuck with me the most was the song Kids On Drugs. At first, I heard the song and was confused by its meaning. Yet as I was sitting there, I noticed I couldn’t get it out of my head. I was hooked.

Cole’s K.O.D. is the hardest hitting album for me. I never looked into the meaning of K.O.D. until the night of his concert.

1985 by J. Cole on his album K.O.D. is, in my opinion, one of the most powerful songs I have heard. The song starts by saying, “33 years d**m I’m grateful I survived. We wasn’t s’posed to get past 25.”

This lead immediately targets a large demographic of minorities. By simply including that line, J. Cole tackled and brought up this vastly known statistic.

Another line from 1985 that stands out is, “N****’s actin’ woke but they broke.”

This line is a direct “@” to all newer, more young rappers like 6ix9nine, Lil Pump, and so on. J. Cole seems to be commenting on the more surface level pieces that other artists are continuing to put out.

In 2011, Cole released his debut album, Cole World: The Sideline Story, which ended up hitting number one on Billboards 200 along with five other albums of his.

Sophomore Jacob Broderick sat and listened to J. Cole during his first period Spanish 2 class. He said, “J. Cole is my favorite.” (Jayah Caley)

I can’t lie and say I’ve been a fan since day one when he released his debut mixtape, in fact his music isn’t even what got me interested in him as an artist, though it is a factor.

What attracts me to him is how humble he is. This opened my eyes and is what really influenced me to listen to his music.

Cole is also not exclusively a rapper. He is a singer, songwriter, and record producer.

In some ways he is like a politician — he has an agenda and when he “speaks” (or writes, releases, and produces music), and uses his platform to send a message similar to speeches and addresses given by politicians.

Sophomore Adrian Marquez said, “J. Cole is a god. He is a woke artist who consistently puts out quality music that challenges society. He intends on keeping us on our toes.”

Cole wants the people listening to his music to know that there is something bigger that we’re missing: “see if I can paint for you the large picture.”

Race is something that J. Cole is extremely willing to give his opinion about. He even says, “these white kids love that you don’t give a f**k,” and continues, “… that’s exactly what’s expected when your skin is black.”

The media is known for typically poorly portraying black people in a negative sense. Through this, J. Cole is referencing all of the songs that exclusively talk about gang violence and other negative stereotypes that black people already face.

Sophomore Kaleb Negussie said, “J. Cole is aight, he sometimes makes his music too much about some issue and it can get lost. The dude is woke though.”

Cole is an artist who tells it like it is — he speaks on the topics that are often swept under the rug.

Cole has personally impacted my life. He’s opened my eyes immensely and challenged me to think about even more social issues that I previously ignored. His music continues to shock me and I can’t wait to see what’s to come from him. Check out his latest song Middle Child.