Love him or hate him, J. Cole is one corny dude. This doesn’t mean he’s necessarily a bad rapper: actually, there are a lot of reasons to believe J. Cole is possibly a good (or maybe even great) rapper. Let’s look at the facts:
- J. Cole has fans. Fans like Obama, Kevin Durant and Jay-Z. People who—as far as we know—have relatively sound judgement and have been awarded Nobel prizes and NBA MVP trophies as a result of their astuteness.
- J. Cole makes money. His 2017 net worth was estimated at $15 million, which is enough money to buy either seven Ferrari F60s, or five million bottles of Bai antioxidant energy drinks. Clearly, people are paying J. Cole to make music, meaning they probably enjoy it at least a little bit.
- J. Cole sells records. His album 2014 Forrest Hills Drive was the first rap record since Nas’ Illmatic to go platinum without that help of any features or guest appearances. His newest release, KOD, shattered Apple Music’s first-day streaming records, earning 64.5 million plays in 24 hours. This data seems to imply that at least some people have been listening to J. Cole’s music.
Still, all of this is independent of the fact that J. Cole is one corny dude. We’re talking about a guy who once rapped the words: “I’m hot dog, ketchup to me.” A guy who released his album about the detriments of drug abuse on 4/20.
And this is all totally OK. You can be corny sometimes and be a great artist at other times (see: Robert De Niro in Dirty Grandpa). Instead of saying whether KOD is bad or good, let’s celebrate this duality instead, and just enjoy J. Cole’s corny lines for what they are.
6. “I wanna have my cake and another cake too” – ‘Kevin’s Heart’
On a song about Kevin Hart’s infidelity, Cole uses a play on the classic idiom “have your cake and eat it too” to discuss the temptation of extra-marital affairs. The idea here is simple: it’s hard to have just one cake (woman), so sometimes you feel like you might need another cake (woman) to go along with the first cake (woman).
The only problem here is that having your cake and eating it too literally already means having something you want and still wanting more. Changing an idiom to say the same exact thing that idiom already says is like rapping: “Actions speak louder than the things you say with your mouth.”
5. “My life is too crazy, no actor could play me” – ‘KOD’
Really J. Cole? Your life is really that crazy? You mean to tell me if Daniel Day Lewis—an unbelievably accomplished actor who once portrayed a man that was so insane he beat a dude to death with a bowling pin—offered to put off his retirement and play you in a movie, you’d be like: “Nah man, my life is too crazy. Sorry.”
4. “Keep the peace like Dalai Lama, big body Hummers” – ‘Motiv8’
The meaning here is pretty simple. Not only does J. Cole keep the peace, but he also has some really large cars. Not to get too nitpicky with this one, but it seems incredibly unlikely that the Dalai Lama, a man with who has vehemently spoken out against man-made climate change, would drive a vehicle that averages 12 miles per gallon.
Further evidence: a photo of the Dalai Lama driving a car that’s not a big body Hummer.
3. “Or the fact that every black boy wanna be Pippen, but they only got twelve slots on the Pistons” – ‘FRIENDS’
According to some passionate commenters on Genius, there may be some deeper meaning here. Still, no level of metaphor-on-top-of-metaphor complexity can erase the fact that Scottie Pippen never played a single NBA game for the Detroit Pistons.
2. “I’ve been tryna give them game like Santa did when Christmas came” – ‘Window Pain’
First of all, this song is called “Window Pain.” Does Cole not remember how much flak Eminem got for using this same exact play on words? And yes, Santa does in fact bring games on Christmas.
1. “And the strongest drug of all … love.” – ‘KOD’
J. Cole doesn’t technically rap this line himself—it comes from a female narrator who rattles off a long list of substances at the end of the album’s second track. Despite the attempted set-up job by Cole, he takes all the credit for this relentlessly corny assertion.
Photo: Flickr/Daniel Gregory