How many rappers are there with multiple number-ones and college degrees? How many rappers stay pure amid the media circus, refusing to change who they are physically or morally? How many rappers are immediately embraced by the biggest names in the industry while spitting cold, hard truths?
On second thought, maybe we should call them Cole hard truths, because J. Cole must be the only man who fits this lofty description. He may be a Born Sinner. But today, he's nothing less than winning, and here's why you can't miss his What Dreams May Come tour with Wale when it kicks off at Miami's James L. Knight Center on September 10.
He's Actually Mad Smart
Most rappers like to talk about how they didn't ever have a back-up plan, and even Cole's mentor Kanye West made a career off of dropping out of school, but Cole isn't 'bout that ignorant life. It's true he moved from his home in North Carolina to New York City chasing a hip-hop dream, but instead of just hustling, selling drugs, or pushing mixtapes, he applied himself and earned a college degree from St. John's University. He majored in communication and minored in business, graduating magna cum laude.
He's Jay Z's Protege
Jay Z is a busy man, because, y'know, he's a business, man. It takes a lot to make an impression. When Cole was first coming up, he stood outside Jay's Roc the Mic studio for three hours to try and give the boss a beat, and though he was brushed aside, he didn't give up. It worked out in the end, because as soon as Jay heard the young stunner rhyme, he put him on his track "A Star is Born" from The Blueprint 3, and Jay's stayed fuckin' with him ever since.
He Keeps it Real
Cole hasn't let the limelight change him, and so far, that hasn't done him any wrong. He often raps about how surprising his success has been, especially since he hasn't given in and started playing the pop game. He rhymes about learning to love oneself, making a huge hit out of a song about not succumbing to advice that he should fix his "Crooked Smile" just because he can. In a world of Photoshopped fakes, a real face is something to be proud of.
He Knows how to Handle a Scandal
Rap is all about pushing the boundaries, and it's an artform that comes straight from the streets. That being said, sometimes rappers can use language that, while seemingly innocuous to them, comes off as extremely offensive to the rest of the world. That's what happened to the usually positive Cole on his track "Jodeci Freestyle" in collaboration with Drake. Cole compared other, lesser rappers to people with autism, and once the song got some airplay, autism groups got real angry. But instead of letting the situation fester and denying the problem (looking at you, Rozay), he quickly penned a personal apology, writing "to all those overcoming Autism. You deserve medals, not disrespect. I hope you accept my sincere apology."
He Has a Real Lyrical Message and a Tight Flow
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Cole doesn't rap about bitches, money, drug dealing, and pimping. Well, maybe he does, but only to point out that glorifying such a desperate lifestyle is not only irresponsible of his peers but destructive to young hip-hop fans across the world. If one person wants to rap about the hard realities of ghetto living, that's not inherently a problem, but when ignorance spreads like disease in the minds of many, the future becomes very bleak. Cole is worthwhile because he takes the time to question rap's cliches and remind the world's youth that each one of them is special and capable. He accepts his position as a role model, and he accepts that not everyone is perfect, but that doesn't mean we can't all strive to be better every day.
J. Cole's What Dreams May Come Tour. With Wale. Tuesday, September 10. James L. Knight, 400 SE Second Ave., Miami. The show starts at 8 p.m. Call 305-372-4634 or visit jlkc.com.