This morning, I woke up around 4:30, lay in bed with my phone in hand, and found out that J. Cole has another feature with a trap rapper. While some fans may have been confused by it at the beginning, especially because the content many trap rappers put out is antithetical to Cole’s overlying message, I see what he’s doing and I love it.
As far as current messaging within mainstream hip-hop goes, J. Cole is arguably the dopest lyricist. He doesn’t appear to compromise his values to remain at the top of anyone’s charts and yet he remains in that #1 conversation. He’s done everything that every revolutionary hip-hop head needs him to. So why is he on songs with artists whose lyrics frequently fail to uplift black communities? Because that’s the only way he can continue making progress. J. Cole isn’t rapping to wake up the woke just like doctors aren’t here to heal the healthy. He has his fan base. We’re going to rock with him as long as he keeps coupling fire lyrics with complementary beats. But he has to reach across the aisle if he ever wants to have the impact on the nation that he can have.
Boom! Ok, now you’re asking when I became a music blogger. But there’s a point to this. As a young professional, you will hit a point where you have made all the waves possible in your own office. You’ll have gotten your numbers up and this and that. You’ll be good but that’s when it’s time to step into a leadership role. There are some in leadership roles who aren’t leaders. They sit in their corner offices and expect everyone in the building to know everything they do because they have access to it. But what if more managers took the J. Cole leadership route after they have become individually successful? What if they reached back to those who were least likely to succeed, put them on game, and helped them transform? Without touching 21 Savage’s or 6ix9ine’s bases, he’s just another dope conscious rapper. But now he’s a thought-leader because his thoughts are affecting change outside the room of other thought-leaders. That’s culture-changing influence.
Make stepping across the aisle a priority.