J Cole is attempting to be the trojan horse of so-called “mumble rap.” On his new KOD album, the Dreamville rhymer decided to critique modern rap – and the nihilistic culture surrounding it – by co-opting its sonics and flow patterns. Some people are questioning his execution, but his legion of fans probably believe it’s the thought that counts. Speaking of counting, Cole released a video for “ATM,” a track from the album that analyzes America’s copious consumption and the belief that, “can’t take it when you die, but you can’t live without it” as he rhymed on the jazz-infused trap banger.
“Proceed with caution / I heard if you chase it only results in, a hole in your heart” he spat, dually assuming the role of the average money-monger while sneaking cogent commentary into his bars. The video is a vivid, colorful spectacle that brings to mind the best of Busta Rhymes, Missy Elliott and Spike Lee’s Bamboozled rolled into one surreal commentary on coarse consumerism. Cole is clad in a straight jacket in a room padded with money. He’s flowing through the sky, holding a dollar like a key that children riding the pharmaceutical plane are chasing. The visual metaphors are on 1000 in the video Cole co-directed with Scott Lazer.
It’s an ambitious comeback for an artist who has been reclusive over the past year. It seemed like he had reached a creative rut, but it’s clear he has more to say.