by Jermaine Reed
In 2008 or 2009, in the midst of getting my firstbcollege degree and finding out who I was, I heard a lyrical rapper with the same name I had. That lyricist was a biracial college graduate from North Carolina, a state I had only ever discussed in passing. Having grown up in Chicago’s notorious Robert Taylor Projects, Cole’s analytical and humbling lyrics were a breath of fresh air. He spoke about empowering Black youth, deconstructing a racist criminal justice system and holding police accountable for their actions.
Then, COVID-19 happened, and the outsoken lyricist J. Cole from North Carolina went mute. With Chicago activist-rapper Noname questioning his whereabouts during the current struggle, Cole responded with ”Snow on the Bluff.” In it, he chides younger rapper Noname, 28, for scolding him instead of teaching him. He says that just because she is ”woke” and he isn’t, that does not give her the right to address him in such a way. Yes, he has a degree, but he is not as smart as everyone thinks he is, he argues. His IQ is average, he says. This position is foolery.
J. Cole’s career is founded on being woke. It is he who calls out racial injustice and encourages civil unrest. He is not some guy who does not know what is going on in the world. Quite the opposite: he does nothing but comment on the world, America in particular.
Recently, Dave Chappelle addressed not using his celebrity platform during this time of racial civil unrest. Chapelle argues that he does not want to hijack the movement. He is not needed now. When he is, he will come forward. This, I respect. He is not claiming ignorance, unlike J. Cole.
I am not calling J. Cole a coward, but where are you? You are the same age as the millennials and other generations in the streets fueling this movement. Outside of being offended by and making songs about someone who critiqued you, what good are you doing? You have thrown rocks all these years. Now, it is time to show your hands.
*Jermaine Reed is a writer from Chicago who writes fiction, local news stories and national news stories. Please join his email list to get updates on blog posts, writing advice and free books.