In a video published earlier this month, J. Cole puts words to something we’ve all been thinking. He links certain aspects of hip-hop—political oppression, commercialization, reflection of class struggle—in a way that hasn’t been done before to illustrate a horrible cycle that happens time and time again.
Cole mentions what it’s like to be the “bottom of the totem pole” so to speak in American society, but to still be strong enough to release something with purpose on a regular basis. He claims this is how a lot of initially subculture genres—most substantially rock n roll and hip-hop—form. Then, when the art form inevitably blows up and influences mainstream culture, it’s ruined. It no longer reflects that political oppression of which its roots are sunk into. It becomes a commodity and ditches the spark from which it was born.
This begs the question—if the system is so rigged now, and hip-hop is merely meaningless commercialization, why has Cole dedicated his life to it? Here is one way he has tried to uphold meaning and purpose in his efforts.
“The success and the things you place your importance on never can satisfy you or ever make you happy because they never end. There is no amount of money that will ever make you stop, if money is what you care about… It doesn’t stop. It keeps calling you. It’s like a drug… If you place your importance on… love, there’s enough of that in everybody’s life right now if they just took the time to look.”
Well put. It’s rappers like J. Cole that keep hip-hop alive and well.