i love j. cole. he has flow. he is hella talented. he’s from my town and reps the south HARD. in hip hop tradition, he uses the mic to speak to real issues people are facing. he is something i secretly hope drake (who i have a love/hate/but mostly love relationship with) will wake up and become one day.
having just signed to roc nation, j.cole is on the up and up. he is putting fayetteville on the map. the problem with cole going so hard for the ‘ville is that a lot of folks are up in arms about what it is that he is representing. (most of the voices being heard are white people. a few black community leaders are thrown in for validation.) my friends & i watch his video and we see youth of color taking over the city. claiming this place. recognizing ritual. understanding that j.cole had to leave fayetteville & the south but unlike everyone else, he came back. others see him emphasizing “blight” and fayetteville negatively.
i went to two high school graduations this summer and j.cole got a shout out in both valedictorian speeches. if j. cole comes on anywhere (party, mall, festival, wherever), folks jump up. (young) people (of color), like me, are proud as hell of j. cole. i assume that anti-racist progressives i know will see the video in the same way — that cole did the right thing by shooting the video here in fayetteville and including cheerleaders and marching bands from the local HBCU & high school next to it — but they’re with the city: outraged and/or disgusted that this is what is being put out about fayetteville.
in the video above, j. cole says he understands the outrage as a generational gap in black community:
“that’s something that happens all the time in the black community. it’s a generational gap. they don’t get it. they don’t see the good in the situation that a kid from fayetteville made it out and made something out of himself and wants to come home and you know, represent to the rest of the world. but they can’t see past the curse words. so that’s what happened with that. i’m not mad anymore, like i understand where they’re coming from and where their mindset is at, but if they had a better understanding and grasp of the situation, they wouldn’t feel how they felt.”
i can’t speak to that dynamic. i do know three things for sure:
+ hip hop is a threat to dominant culture. it is one of the most powerful forms of media and people don’t want youth of color to have that power.
+ our idea around tone and appropriateness is rooted in white supremacy and class hierarchy.
+youth of color hardly have any (institutional) power. taking away our language is taking away one of the few things we have control over.
most of all, i know this video won’t whitewash fayetteville. it refuses to sanitize our history with white supremacy or the impact of being next door to the biggest US Army installation in the world.
i am inspired by J. Cole’s commitment to fayetteville and hope he keeps doing what he does (while working on the misogyny and sexism of course).