Context – Catching a Lyft
My wife has the car in the suburbs today and it’s supposed to do that scattered showers thing all day, so today I decided to treat myself to a Lyft to work. If you don’t know, Lyft is like Uber.
My driver was also named Jason, so we obviously get along great. Fun fact about Jason’s: we instantly get along with each other. You’d have to be a Jason to understand, but I don’t think I’ve met one of me I don’t like.
Today’s Jason gave me a crash course in J. Cole by playing most of 2014 Forest Hills Drive, and I think he nailed it on the head when he introduced him as a “sophisticated” rapper. I like that description, and think it’s apt. His beats aren’t banging, per se. His delivery isn’t aggressive. His lyrics aren’t particularly braggadocios. But he still has an inexplicably engaging quality about him that lets you know he knows what he’s about.
I think I’ve heard him compared to Kendrick Lamar and other “conscious” rappers, whatever that means. While I’m not 100% sure it always applies, I’m glad to have a designation I can latch on to. I like what J. Cole put out on this album. I like almost everything Kendrick puts out. Big Run the Jewels fan. Vince Staples seems to know what’s up. But the only quality I can for sure use to link all of these artists together is that they are inescapably themselves, and they leverage this in their art.
Someone was once misquoted as saying “write what you know.” Junot Diaz thinks that’s croc and leads to a bunch of novels about professors contemplating sleeping with their students (which may be a bastardization or misappropriation in its own right, I’m having trouble sourcing the quote). While I agree that there is something to be said about writing outside of your comfort zone, I think nothing but great things can happen when an artist finds their pocket and knows when to live in it vs when to come out of it. There’s ambitious and then there’s ambitious–you want to punch above your weight but you don’t want to self-destruct for the sake of progress. If that makes any sense.
All of which is to say I had a very pleasant commute to work today and can’t wait to learn more about J. Cole. Sorry for sleepin’ on ya for so long.
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