KEVIN’S HEART, INFIDELITY, MICRO-CHEATING AND J-COLE’S K.O.D: A REVIEW

HelloHalima

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:

Micro-cheating:

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.

J COLE, A REVIEW ON HATERS, ‘THE NEIGHBOURS THINK I’M SELLING DOPE’ AND HOPE

HelloHalima

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Instead of studying for my exams, I am sitting here listening to J Cole’s latest album ‘4 Your Eyez Only’. The fire that is emanating from my speakers is quite distracting (oh god Halima that was so corny, this is why you don’t write any reviews!). This by far is NOT a traditional music review- I am just a mere mortal who has immersed herself into the cold world of J Cole. Personally, I feel like this album is quite different- a visceral and emotionally charged account on themes of  mass incarceration, racism, love, marriage, growing up, mortalities as a black man and the perils of fatherhood. While these are ideals that he has touched on in the past, this album feels different. It feels like a good-bye letter, a joint effort cultivated through the experiences of his fallen friend (James McMillan) and the experiences that he wishes us to know about. This is a direction that was quite interesting to experience through our eyes and through Cole’s eyes as well.

At first, I was expecting a powerful classic, one that mirrored the same intensity and power as ‘Born Sinner’ or ‘2014 Forest Hills Drive’,  I ended up listening and being exposed to a sad and climactic goodbye. A farewell to familiar themes, ideals, beliefs, experiences. This narrative consisted of a 10 track story told through the perspective of Cole himself and that of his friend (possibly- James McMillan). What I loved about this album is how you can just close your eyes and be transported to wherever he is. The nature of his storytelling transcends traditional norms of the rap music that exists these days- with the rise of the Lil Yachtys, the Macklemores, the Madeintyo’s,  it is easy to be dazed by the appeal of trash music and not be able to recognize heartfelt sound when it drops and hits you in the face. It is also easy to be confused and not appreciate the full power of ‘4 Your Eyez Only” when the interconnection between fake trap- actual trap and plagiarization of this Cole-esqe type of aesthetic is all you are familiar with. Was that an attempt of me trying to dissect this album on a macro level? Who knows? What I do know is a few of my friends have come out the woodwork as newly coined Cole haters by saying all of J-Cole’s music “sounds the same” and “is not original” to which I say, first… no two J-Cole songs sound the same, it resembles the snowflake effect or that of eyebrows, you will never have the same Cole song. It is because all the lyrics are beautifully poignant, paint lovely imagery in your mind, so real you start to see it come alive (remember how visceral wet dreams was?) and second, I can’t take music advice from people who think Macklemore is a work of art. Sorry not sorry. 

The most striking song (and my favourite off the album) is ‘Neighbours’. It tells the story of J Cole renting out a home for his Dreamville producers, artists. What was supposed to be a haven and a safe space to create music and be inspired quickly became poisoned by the influence and patriots of white suburbia. ‘Neighbours’ is a wonderful representation of the racism that is ravaging the world as Cole recounts what happens when you become a victim of the discriminatory beliefs and racist ideals his neighbours had. Cole starts off the song with a powerful intro: /I guess the neighbours think I’m sellin’ dope, sellin’ dope/ Okay, the neighbours think I’m sellin’ dope, sellin’ dope/ Sellin’ dope, sellin’ dope, sellin’ dope/. The irony is that Cole is indeed selling dope, his dope music, his dope persona, his dope story-telling all culminating in this amazing song and album to come out of it- horrible and typical experiences that are a result of such deeply rooted hatred from white people who only think black people at J-Cole’s caliber can be either drug dealers or rappers. Cole later on explains that he “can’t sleep cause [he’s] paranoid, black man in a white man territory. Cops bust in with the army guns, no evidence of the harm we done. Just a couple neighbours that assume we slang. Only time they see us we be on the news, in chains, damn” This diminishes his personhood as they do not lend him the courtesy of seeing him as a neighbour, as an equal. This just goes to show that levels of fame are not enough to protect you from these kinds of experiences. I feel as though some ignorant people would expect experiences like this to disappear and not affect prolific artists once they reach a certain level of fame- it does not matter if you are one of the president’s favourite artists or if you have grammys and oscars to your name, ignorance and racist ideals will seep through and hatred will become an overwhelming force to be reckoned with. Cole mentions this in ‘Neighbours’ but later leaves us with a sense of hope, a sense of renewal, a sense of clarity as he says ‘My intuition is telling me there’ll be better days’.

While there is a lot I can say about this album, what I will say is for the people saying “I was expecting better…”, “This is not his best album….”, “J Cole fell off”, I can only say I’m sorry for your loss. The impactful nature of this album and the ability Cole shares by being able to not only rap and express himself from multiple points of view and perspectives but share in the perspectives of others is astonishing. I do not believe ‘4 Your Eyez Only’ was meant to be the next “2014 Forest Hills Drive” or even a carbon copy of any of his earliest works. It is meant to be an album that speaks to the nature of today- an emotional, political and powerful commentary that is able to speak to the many. A narrative that honours his friend and shares in his legacy and allows for us to do the same. Thank you J Cole.