Author: Anthony Murdock II
As many know, I am a HUGE fan of J. Cole. From his first mixtape, The Come Up, to his most recent piece of artwork, 2014 Forest Hills Drive, I am absolutely infatuated, no IN LOVE, with his ability to articulate the thoughts and ideas and issues that are present within the minds of so many young people of color across this country.
Cole has an uncanny desire (and ability) to speak the truth about a situation without fearing the repercussions of the truth he declares. From calling out the way in which hip-hop and rock & roll have become white-washed; to calling himself out for making a record called “Work Out”, which was a hit, but was made to suffice the demands of his label, not for the sake of substance; Cole has made a personal obligation to speak what’s real. His reputation in the rap game and his identity in pop culture is centered around the lengths he goes on the mic, in both bars and tonal changes (occasionally singing in that strenuous and rough but powerful voice), to evoke a message that anyone with an issue can relate.
In his December 2014 Interview with the iconic Power 105.1 radio personality, Angie Martinez, (link to the video of this interview is at the end of this article for anyone who wants to check it out) Cole talks about a plethora of things: from explaining why he sold his Range Rover and now uses a bike for his primary mode of transportation, to the dangers of capitalism on the growing class disparity in America, to clarifying the meaning of Fire Squad and squashing the idea that he dissed Eminem, Macklemore or Justin Timberlake.
While all of these points held great meaning to me, the one concerning the dangers of capitalism and its role in creating the gap in classes here in America really sat with me. Cole said we need to progress from an “I” centered culture, to a “we” centered culture.
Of Cole’s various issues with capitalism, he suggests his greatest dislike of the system is the ability for capitalism to emphasize individual success, at the sacrifice of someone else. And while he supports the purchase of a nice watch or car or house because there is nothing wrong with success, there has to be greater meaning behind it than beating another person.
Cole said that there this country is filled with people and companies that are simply re-creating the same product, and selling these products at prices that are a tad bit cheaper than their competitor. And this is very true, with most smart phones having similar capabilities, but still their being so many different brands of phones at different prices. Cole said this behavior is dangerous because it does not encourages one to contribute or push society toward progression, but rather replicate what is already there. Cole suggested that we come up with new and transformative ideas that can further the generation, instead of trying to recreate what is already there, which is hardly beneficial.
There is definitely a need to move to a more community-oriented society. Our ability to purchase “i-phones” and “i-pods”, tools used to express who we are as individuals, the growing power of “selfies”, pictures of an individual used to glorify their own beauties, these trends are evidence of a society centered around self-gratification and individualistic tendencies. And while I should be the last person to shame a selfie, as I do like to snap the occasional picture and bless my followers timeline, too much of this activity will inadvertently affect our character and lifestyle, as we become more and more consumed with the idea of “i”.
There is great power in community, because it allows for a support system of people of all shapes, sizes, colors, genders, sexual orientations, races, ethnicities, etc. A community encourages the promotion of a group of people based on individual’s efforts and experiences, and this promotion leads to advertising new perspectives and outlooks on life and experience.
If we neglect to appreciate and uplift the community, we unconsciously and inevitably downgrade and diminish who we are as individuals. In “Love Yours”, the second-to-last on his new album 2014 Forest Hills Drive, Cole talks about the overarching power of love and happiness. He explains how the album has helped him to return his focus to love and happiness and to emulate and and encourage others to respect the power in those two ideals.
In the ending lines of the second and final verse of the song, Cole highlights the way in which anyone can gain success and things and belongings in hopes to be better than someone else, but at the end of the day, someone will always beat you because of the way the system, the capitalist system, works. However if we focus on the experiences we have with those material possessions, rather than the items themselves, we discover love and fulfillment and true happiness.
Community allows us to focus and appreciate the experiences we have, and find value in these experiences that compare to the price of the material possessions we admire in this capitalist system called America. I find it ironic that a car depreciates in value once driven off the lot. Because when you look at that same car sitting in your own garage after a long road trip with your closest friends, the car seems more valuable than it ever could have been sitting in that car dealership. This principle of appreciating experiences and placing value on those experiences was created by community, and it is VITAL that we never let the idea of “i” remove the wonderfulness of “we” in our lives.
We are obligated to maintain the idea of community as “we the people” progress because without community, we lose our identity and our history. While community helps us learn from our mistakes and become better, it also picks us up and gives us another opportunity when we fail time and time again.
In your effort to become somebody in this society that is filled with nobodys, don’t forget the people who helped get you to where you are. If you do, you’re no different than anyone else, which is essentially, a nobody.