It is Sunday, the sun is shining, the birds are chirping and last week J-Cole released his fifth studio album on 4/20. Fitting and ironic as the title is “K.O.D” is “Kids on Drugs” or “King Overdose” or “Kill our Demons”. All three titles being homages to the ways in which drugs are the biggest forms of distress to our mental, physical and emotional selves and well beings. “K.O.D” serves as a 12 song- 43 minute landscape encapsulating a culture of drugs and how it has shaped the dichotomy of music: through the form of addiction, over-popularization of recreational substances, as well as people using drugs as coping mechanisms to fill empty voids in their lives. This album feels just as gritty and important as “For Your Eyez Only” (perhaps even more so) as the themes he uncovers in K.O.D are an extension of what Black and radicalized communities feel in the world. A particular theme that he delves deeper into with this album is one of Addiction and Mental Health. He highlights the different facets that addiction can intersect with, love and addiction, social media and addiction, infidelity and addiction. It was interesting to see the switch in the topics and how addiction manifests in different ways through his words.
Songs like “1985: Intro to the Fall off” discuss Cole’s perspective and thoughts on a younger rap generation and how artists like Lil pump, Xxxtentacion (etc) showcase a high level of drug use that’s popularized in the choruses of their songs, using that as the pipeline to popularity rather than rapping about things that actually matter and are important in the world. His subliminal jabs are beautifully articulated as he says “You coulda bought a crib with all that bread that you done blew/ I know you think this type of revenue is never endin’ but I wanna take a minute to tell you that ain’t true / One day, them kids that’s listening gon’ grow up/ And get too old for that shit that made you blow up. Now your shows lookin light cause they don’t show up.” He is foreshadowing the future and the end of the artists who are capitalizing off of rap that’s all mumble- all trap- no substance- infused with drug references and belligerent club rap. He even ends it off hilariously by saying “In five years you gon’ be on Love & Hip-Hop nigga“- the Where Are They Now equivalent for one hit wonders and people who rise to fame quickly and lose it when they become old news. Hilarious.
Don’t get me wrong, I love subliminal messages like the best of them but J-Cole’s “Kevin’s Heart” took it to a whole new level as he dives into the world of infidelity as he modelled the song after Kevin Hart and his recent cheating scandal on Eniko Hart. As I was listening to the song, I couldn’t help but think of the different parameters of cheating/micro-cheating and the concept of emotional cheating- a behaviour/actions that many people participate in and exhibit in today’s society. You are probably reading this and wondering: what the hell is micro-cheating????? Well:
1. “A series of small (comments, actions) occurrences that indicate that a person is emotionally or physically invested or focused on someone outside of the relationship.” -Melanie Shilling (Psychologist)
2. “Micro-cheating is when you do [things] that might not be considered outright infidelity, but are nonetheless breaches of trust that could lead to genuine cheating in the future” -Jonathan Bennett
So if that’s what micro-cheating is, it’s very definition propels the nature of cheating, emotional or physical. J Cole covers this in “Kevin’s Heart” as he says, “She my number one, I don’t need nothing on the side”. This is what many men (who have been in situations nearing cheating) think until they find themselves in precarious situations. The irony is that in a culture that almost romanticizes side-chicks, it’s the side chicks that lose after falling in love with men that will always see them as a secondary option. When we think about cheating, many people think of the physical ramifications that are unthinkable. Many of my friends always say “Oh if my man ever cheated on me, it’s a wrap, I would throw hands, fuck that nigga”, they only envision the worst case scenario- finding your significant other in a precarious and physical situation. But what of emotional cheating? When your emotional intimacy is chipped away slowly but surely, taken by another woman. The secrets and conversations that were once had with you, are had with another. The dreams and aspirations that were once shared with you, now in replacement of fluff and sitcom commentary. I find that a lot more sad, a slow growing death much more deserving of mourning. Regardless of what form- cheating is still something that is hurtful, devastating to all parties involved.
J-Cole continues the double entendres as addiction and the idea of love fuse together with drug imagery: “But I’m only human, I know loving you’s a crime // If I take this cookie now, one day I’ll do the time.” That last line commenting on two things, the first being: what eventually occurs when you enter the perimeters of cheating, you not only hurt yourself but all the parties involved. The second being, when you are involved with drugs and the consumption of it in your daily routine- what was once “for fun” and “a one time thing” could come back to disparage your life one way or another.
Kevin’s Heart also touches on distractions- using people, using xanny- weed- molly even as escapes from real world. J Cole struggles with this as well. The idea of numbing, temporary satisfaction in different forms. Numbing the pains and trials and tribulations through distractions is one of the biggest themes. It is true that we all do this, we replace our troubles with distractions- from the micro distractions of other people and sleep to the macro of drugs and alcohol. It’s apart of human nature. What bothers me is using someone while you already have another to satisfy your needs, the idea of having your cake and wanting to eat it too. The Greedy Syndrome. J Cole touches on this as he says, “Wanna have my cake and another cake too // Even if the baker don’t bake like you // Even when the flavour don’t taste like you.” Greedy Syndrome!!!!!!!!!! It is true, in the case of cheating, of love, of relationships, people always want what they can’t have. Many people also try to have the best of both worlds and that does not always work out. Maybe what J Cole had to say at the beginning rings true: “All a nigga know is how to fuck a good thing up.”
While many thought negatively of J Cole’s previous album of “For Your Eyez Only”, “K.O.D” continues to ring as a Cole classic, one beautifully saturated in authentic Cole- world truth, activism and imagery that depicts of past, present and future selves. Is J-Cole Nostradamus? Only time will tell.