J. Cole

I’d trust Talib Kweli and Mos Def with my hip-hop life. What does that mean? I’m not 100% sure, but I do know that it essentially comes down the fact that any artist sharing a track with those two guys is going to be The Business. If he’s good enough to hang with Kweli and Big Mos, he’s good enough period. And, according to the criteria that I just made up for this article, that means up-and-coming Roc Nation wordsmith J. Cole is good enough. Period.

The song I’m referring to is “Just Begun,” a single off Kweli’s most recent album, “Train of Thought,” and it’s one of those rap songs that’s legitimately fun to listen to from a lyrical standpoint. Well, a lot of rap songs are fun, but there aren’t many guys in the business who make you rewind a line to try and figure out the wordplay of a lyric. Like Kweli and Mos Def (two of the top five rappers alive, in my humble opinion), J. Cole is able to do that. He exploits every connotation, double meaning, and synonym of a word to make sure the bars he spits come off like fire.

In other words, these aren’t songs about the size of somebody’s rims, or the glitter of the gold on someone’s teeth, or the attractiveness of the bee-yotches in the backseat of someone’s Hummer. It’s about writing something intelligent. It’s about putting thought into the lyrics. It’s about actually challenging listeners to think for themselves and figure out the poetry of the music. It is, essentially, what rap was invented to be in the first place, and there aren’t a lot of 25-year-old kids that understand that. Cole does.

The really frustrating thing is that this young man, no matter how highly-touted and featured on mix tapes and other rappers’ albums he may be, still doesn’t have his own album. That’s going to change this summer, when J. Cole will put out his first full-length EP entitled either “Cole World” or “The Blow Up.” In a YouTube video where he’s performing the first single of the album, “Who Dat,” he says in a moment of impromptu rap-banter, “It’s a Cole, Cole World,” which is both clever and catchy, so I’m inclined to guess that’ll be the title Roc runs with. But what the hell do I know?

Not much, actually. But I do know that J. Cole is the real deal, and when it comes to new rappers to watch in 2010 there aren’t going to be many more talented than him. Just ask Talib Kweli and Mos Def. Your hip-hop lives depend on it.

About the Author

Joel Brigham writes about stuff. It’s pretty much all he cares about. Stuff like music and more music. But he mostly cares about music. And also music.

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