J. Cole’s recent visit to San Quentin prison is a reminder that Cole is cut from a different cloth than some of the other rappers of this generation. Throughout his career, he’s continuously showed us that he’s not about the gimmicks, drama, or flexes, but genuinely does it for the music and message. In fact, back in 2009, Jay-Z did us all a favor in signing Fayetteville’s J. Cole to Roc Nation and bringing his talent to mainstream. Since then Cole has been an enormously positive influence, which is something that I look for in rap music.
Rap has gone through many iterations throughout the years, and somewhere along the line, a disconnect occurred between the music and its original purpose of telling real stories and “being the voice of revolution” as 9th Wonder recently mentioned in his The Open Mind interview. There are talented artists out there who have taken rap to another level creatively such as Travis Scott and ASAP Rocky, but very few artists represent the conscious “fight against the system,” and who aim to “teach the youth” in the millennial generation.
Of course, we have Kendrick Lamar, Chance The Rapper, and recently Vic Mensa addressed some of these issues with his new album The Autobiography — but someone that has continuously earned my respect on and off the stage is J. Cole.