6 songs to learn who J. Cole is before his Las Vegas show

If practice makes perfect, he’s practice’s baby.

Or so J. Cole likes to call himself.

The 33-year old MC is a true craftsman, a tender-hearted technician who raps with depth, candor, intellect — he graduated magna cum laude from St. John’s University — and uninhibited emotion.

Since dropping his first mixtape in 2007, the aptly titled “The Come Up,”

Cole has evolved into a voice for hip-hop’s conscience, a thoughtful agitator who questions materialism, masculinity and rap stars’ influence on the world around them.

Along the way, he’s developed into one of the genre’s best of his generation.

“While the people debate who’s the king of this rap game / Here comes li’l ol’ Jermaine,” Cole announces on “Fire Squad” from his chart-topping third album, “2014 Forest Hills Drive,” a boast that’s not without merit.

But just who is li’l ol’ Jermaine?

Check out this six-song playlist to begin to understand what J. Cole is all about.

‘Apparently’ (‘2014 Forest Hills Drive’)

The album takes its title from the address of Cole’s boyhood home in Fayetteville, North Carolina, and on this track Cole laments not being there for his mom when it was foreclosed upon while he was at college.

“I’m so sorry that I left you there to deal with that alone,” he regrets on a song that doubles as a testament to a mother’s selflessness.

Years later, Cole would make good: Not only did he buy his mother a house, but in 2014, he purchased his childhood home to let single mothers and their children live there rent-free.

‘She’s Mine Pt. 2’ (‘4 Your Eyez Only’)

The piano is gentle, the questions hard in this lullaby to first-time fatherhood.

“Am I worthy of this gift?” Cole wonders as his newborn daughter cries in the background. “Am I strong enough to lift, into a place that I can see / Someone more important than me?”

Having grown up without his dad around, he vows to be there for his child.

“For the first time / For you, I drop the tough guy (stuff),” he tells her, never sounding tougher.

‘Let Nas Down’ (‘Born Sinner’)

Plenty of rappers get dismissed as sellouts for chasing commercial success with pop-leaning hits, but seldom is it those rappers themselves doing the dismissing. That’s what Cole does here, though, taking himself to task after releasing run-of-the-mill sex anthem “Work Out” as the lead single for his major label debut, “Cole World.”

Stung upon learning that one of his heroes, rapper Nas, was disappointed in him for releasing an obvious cash grab, Cole repents over a squealing sax line.

“Apologies to OGs for sacrificin’ my art,” he atones, making amends by never making that mistake again.

‘Lost Ones’ (‘Cole World: The Sideline Story’)

An after-school-special storyline gains bruising, real-life connotations when this song’s protagonist impregnates his girlfriend, then urges her to get an abortion because he doesn’t feel they’re fit to be parents. She objects, promising to raise the child on her own while noting how hard it was for the man who impregnated her to grow up without a father himself.

“Did you forget all those conversations that we had way back / ’Bout your father and you told me that you hate (him) / Talkin’ bout, he a coward and you so glad that you ain’t (him),” Cole rhymes in her voice, confronting the painful realization of becoming that which you despise.

‘4 Your Eyez Only’ (‘4 Your Eyez Only’)

On the title track to his fourth album, Cole provides a voice for a man who no longer has one: his boyhood friend James McMillan Jr., who died at age 22.

The first two verses are delivered from the perspective of McMillan, as he addresses the daughter he left behind after getting caught up in a life of crime.

“See, baby girl, I realized, my definition of a real (man) was skewed / My views misshaped by new mixtapes / That confirmed the (lessons) I learned in the streets was true.”

On the final verse, Cole speaks to his friend’s daughter directly, explaining to her the real meaning of masculinity in an environment that often equates being hard with being a man.

“Your daddy was a real (man), not ’cause he was hard / Not because he lived a life of crime and sat behind some bars / Not because he screamed, ‘(Expletive) the law,’ although that was true / Your daddy was a real (man) ’cause he loved you.”

‘Love Yourz’ (‘2014 Forest Hills Drive’)

Plenty of rappers make a living by pointing out just how much more awesome their lives are in comparison to yours — we’re looking at you, Future. But Cole frequently takes the opposite tack. He may elevate himself over other rappers, but not his audience.

“No such thing as a life that’s better than yours,” Cole argues here. “Always gon’ be a whip that’s better than the one you got / Always gon’ be some clothes / That’s fresher than the ones you rock / Always gon’ be a (lovely young lady) that’s badder out there on the tours / But you ain’t never gon’ be happy till you love yours / For what’s money without happiness?”

His point: Don’t sweat those empty pockets so long as the heart is full.

Contact Jason Bracelin at jbracelin@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0476. Follow @JasonBracelin on Twitter.

ad-high_impact_4
Entertainment
Artists from Cirque du Soleil contribute art to Las Vegas art exhibit
Artists from Cirque du Soleil contribute art to Las Vegas gallery exhibit
Red Plate on the Las Vegas Strip serves a cocktail made with blooming jasmine tea
Red Plate on the Las Vegas Strip serves a cocktail made with jasmine tea
Benny the Ice Skating Dog
Benny is a Las Vegas Labrador who was rescued by former pro skater Cheryl Del Sanyo, and trained to ice skate. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Nevada State Museum
The Nevada State Museum of Las Vegas, located at the Springs Preserve, covers all eras of the state, from prehistoric to today.
Throw a better dinner party
Cash appears at Baseball Winter Meetings
Lights FC mascot Cash plays the electronic drums at the EZ Inflatables’ booth on Tuesday at the Baseball Winter Meetings trade show at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino.
5 albums to soundtrack your holiday gatherings in style
1. Various Artists, “Holidays Rule," with Rufus Wainwright, The Shins, Calexico and more. 2. Various Artists, “We Wish You a Metal Xmas and a Headbanging New Year," with Lemmy Kilmister, Alice Cooper, Chuck Billy and others. 3. Various Artists, “Christmas on Death Row," featuring Snoop Dogg and Nate Dogg to name but a few. 4. Bright Eyes, “A Christmas Album.” 5. Various Artists, "The Motown Christmas Album." (Jason Bracelin/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Inside the kitchen at Springs Preserve
The staff of Divine Events do party preparation in the kitchen at Divine Cafe at Springs Preserve. With nine parties the following day, this is a particularly busy time for the crew. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
WinterFest
WinterFest in Henderson.
Miss Rodeo America Fashion Show
The 28 women contestants of Miss Rodeo America compete in a fashion show at the Tropicana on Dec. 7, 2018.
Tournament Of Kings Holiday Show
Wizards and warriors are ready for the holidays at Excalibur's Tournament of Kings Holiday Dinner Show.
Take a dive with the Silverton mermaids
A visit to the Silverton Casino Hotel is not complete without taking in the popular, and very unique, mermaid show.
Cowboys and western aficionados can buy virtually anything at Cowboy Christmas
Vegas Golden Knights Christmas Display
In the Las Vegas Valley, the chances of getting a white Christmas are slim. But this year, you can have a “Knight” Christmas. A Henderson resident has a Christmas lights display that is synchronized to the entrance music for the Golden Knights. GG Misa’s Knights light show is played every 30 minutes from 5 to 10 nightly. His light show consists of two songs: Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You” and the entrance music, “Le Castle Vania,” from the movie “John Wick.” The display is located at 730 Bollons Island St. (Richard Brian/Las Vegas Reivew-Journal)
Holiday Hooch At El Cortez is Just in Time For Repeal Day And Christmas
Holiday Hooch At El Cortez Is Just In Time For Repeal Day And Christmas. Janna Karel/Las Vegas Review-Journal
TV's LGBT superheroes
Green Valley Ranch's Winter's Village
The Mob Museum
Best Friend Menu Reveal Wednesday
Chef Roy Choi tells us what to expect from Wednesday’s Facebook Live Menu Reveal for his new Park MGM restaurant Best Friend. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Quick Chat With Criss Angel
James D. Gish and Susan Anton rehearse
Susan Anton will be special guest at James D. Gish’s holiday concerts Dec. 7 at Summerlin Library and Dec. 9 at Clark County Library. (John Przybys/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bellagio Winter Wonderland
"Majestic Holiday Magic" at the Bellagio Conservatory.
Underwater Santa At The Silverton
Santa takes a dive Sunday, December 2, at the Silverton Casino Hotel. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Cowabunga Bay Christmas Town
Las Vegas Natural History Museum
Las Vegas Natural History Museum, which opened in 1991, has exhibits of mechanical dinosaurs and taxidermied animals, along with live snakes, fish and sharks. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Magical Forest Lights
Cirque Du Soleil Performers Team Up For New Show "Kinekt"
Through dance, acrobatics and aerial arts, “Kinekt” tells a story all too familiar to modern families: how to maintain a human connection in the digital age. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Ethel M Holiday Cactus Garden
The Pinball Hall of Fame in Las Vegas
The Pinball Hall of Fame was created by Tim Arnold and opened in 2006. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Jump! The Ultimate Dog Show at Springs Preserve in Las Vegas
Trainer Lou “Mack” McCammon guides several rescue dogs through a series of tricks and jumps two shows a day weekends through December at the Springs Preserve in Las Vegas. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
TOP NEWS
News Headlines
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
Circular
You May Like

You May Like