J. Cole gets a lot of hate. Fans of the new generation of SoundCloud rappers such as Lil Pump have felt that the North Carolina rapper’s followers look down on SoundCloud rap for its lack of depth. Maybe it’s true that “Gucci Gang” doesn’t have the same complex outlook on drugs and depression that Cole possesses on his album KOD, where he tries to express the idea that turning to drugs is the worst way to deal with pain. The pitched-down lyrics of his alter-ego kiLL edward on “The Cut-Off” speak to this – “Gimme drink, gimme dope / bottom line, I can’t cope.”
Cole’s point is that when deep in depression, people do whatever they can to “kill our demons,” which is one way to read the record’s title. But when faced with pain, Cole says on the album’s intro, we should “choose wisely.” On “FRIENDS,” he advises listeners "don’t medicate, meditate.” And in the song “1985 (Intro to ‘The Fall Off’),” what fans may interpret as hate toward the new wave of rappers is actually just friendly advice. He urges that they try to think about the impact their art has on the youth and avoid glorifying the use of hard drugs. Cole doesn’t hate the young rappers – he’s even interviewed Lil Pump – all he wants is for them to choose wisely.
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J. Cole. With Jaden Smith & EARTHGANG. 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, August 21, at Talking Stick Resort Arena, 201 East Jefferson Street; 602-379-7800; talkingstickresortarena.com. Tickets are $44.75 to $144.75 via Ticketmaster.