Producer and rapper J. Cole is only 33, but he’s evidently viewed by a younger generation as the old guard in hip-hop now. Cole grew up in North Carolina, around the army community at Fort Bragg. Cole was the first artist to be signed to Jay Z’s Roc Nation in 2009. And Cole’s 2018 record “KOD” broke all kinds of sales and streaming records when it was released.
So maybe it makes sense that younger rappers are taking aim at Cole’s accomplishments. But Cole, for his part, mostly wishes young rappers success, congratulating them on moving out of their childhood bedrooms and hoping that they’re able to buy their moms a house. Speaking of houses, Cole started an initiative in Fayetteville to provide rent-free houses for single mothers there.
Cole is a smart and sensitive star. He mostly avoids interviews, probably more proof of his wisdom. He’s circumspect and empathetic about taking people’s predicaments into consideration when he weighs in on the problems facing America today. Check out his 2014 tune “Be Free,” a response to the shooting of Michael Brown, if you want to get a sense of how hip-hop remains vital in taking on current events with emotion and honesty. Cole is a force for good: he’s telling young fans in 2018 to meditate. Make fun or dis if you want, but Cole is speaking truth and he’s hugely influential. He doesn’t care if you think it’s cool or not.
J. Cole performs at the XL Center, 1 Civic Center Plaza, Hartford, on Wednesday, Sept. 26, at 8 p.m. Tickets start at $54. xlcenter.com.