Thank you, J. Cole. Thank you, Kendrick Lamar. Your bravery in the face of the adversity conjured by the creative malaise of the status quo is appreciated and timely indeed.
This week, J. Cole released his highly anticipated fifth album KOD to critical fanfare. The album is an unofficial protest of the current bass heavy drug and thug commercial rap culture that is pervasive in popular culture. Cole reminds the young old heads and reveals to the new generation of hip-hop heads the long lost art of lyricism complimented by jazz horns and piano riffs.
Think, Olu Dara’s Nasir Jones and everything Kamaal the Abstract did post-Murray Bergtraum High School. Cole reminds me that its okay to be outwardly insecure and extremely contemplative about the state of mind. Gone are the basic boastings of the trappings of success that blind the creator and the listener of a transformational experience. Instead, Cole solidifies his position as everyone’s conscious consigliere ready to dole out advice with the confident smoothness of Tom Hayden to Don Michael Corleone.
Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN was released on April 14, 2017, and it was a song collection that was so authentic, in both vocab and storytelling, it captured the complexity of modern-day African-American life. The Pulitzer Prize committee that awarded the album the honor this year. Lamar is so good that his second album To Pimp A Butterfly should have won this honor a la the Oscar awarding to Denzel Washington for Training Day instead of Malcolm X.
Lamar’s reverence for the funk, hip-hop, and jazz legends of the past can be felt in his entire music catalog, but his executive production on the soundtrack for Black Panther solidified him as a quarterback of an entire project. Lamar’s pen cuts with Michael Corleone’s wisdom mixed with the vicious tenacity of his top Godfather enforcer Luca Brasi. The kid is simply nice and as a product of a good home with two parents, his grounded approach to understanding gang culture and more is refreshingly nonjudgemental.
Whether you mumble, grumble, rhyme or spit if you are coming with the f#*k sh*t you will not pass GO with Mr. Cole and Mr. Lamar at the helm. Pretenders beware.