J. Cole is Neither Deep Nor Profound, And That's Ok

J. Cole is Neither Deep Nor Profound, And That's Ok
Star rapper J. Cole is in the news lately for his recent hit album and his comments on the new youth about the quality of their lyrics, but does he have that authority?
J. Cole is Neither Deep Nor Profound, And That's Ok
Star rapper J. Cole is in the news lately for his recent hit album and his comments on the new youth about the quality of their lyrics, but does he have that authority?

Last week rapper J. Cole released his album ‘KOD’ - to what so far has generally favourable to mixed reviews - and his fanbase on Twitter reacted as predicted: praising his lyricism and saying that one has to be particularly intelligent to understand his type of music (we will address this later). For reference, I have linked a live twitter stream of both below. In addition to this, people are particularly hung up on the closing track "1985 (Intro to "The Fall Off")." In the track, J. Cole addresses many of the newer rap artists in many ways.

He starts off with saying that they're entirely different than his wave of hip hop and some would say that's their brand of it is remarkably stupid - something that many of the mumble rappers and those alike have addressed many times, such as Lil Uzi Vert, Lil Yatchy, and Smokeupurpp. Nevertheless, he goes on to call out one of the newer rappers in particular where he calls his music baseless, hope he isn't as dumb as he looks, and goes on to diss him and ends it with how he will be around forever because he's a lyricist.

heard one of em' diss me, I'm surprised I ain't trippin', listen good to my reply..." (this goes on for several lines)
All these niggas popping now is young Everybody say the music that they make is dumb I remember I was 18

It is obvious that he is talking about Lil Pump - to which Lil Pump responded - and his troll 'song' "Fuck J Cole" where he essentially just repeats the title and calls J. Cole a "lame ass nigga." This was made earlier in 2016 before Lil Pump blew up and was meant as a troll. He and his partner in crime Smokepurpp since then have chanted "Fuck J.Cole" several times on social media and their fans followed suit. Many social media platforms are littered with the phrase “Fuck J. Cole” and it has polluted some of J. Cole’s videos’ comment section. What could be seen as a personal attack on J. Cole however, is just a joke. In an earlier interview with MONTREALITY, Smokepurpp addresses the strange and random feud with the rapper, saying that it's an obvious troll and that he and Lil Pump "[don't] give a fuck" and that "people do know that it's trolling." So from their point of view - it may have seemed peculiar that J. Cole called them out (and several others) on a song.

people do know that it's trolling.
I'll be around forever 'cause my skills is tip-top
To any amateur niggas that wanna get rocked, Just remember what I told you when your shit flop In five years you gon' be on Love & Hip-Hop, nigga

But does J. Cole have the authority to speak to Lil Pump and this new wave in such a way (not referring to the advice of financial intelligence)? Smokepurpp partially addresses this topics in the interview with MONTREALITY saying:

"The OGs that are around right now, don't sound like the OGs that were around before them; and it's the same thing going on now" "Music is art, like, there is no specific way to make art... Art is art you can do what you want"

While this may be controversial, Smokepurpp has an entirely legitimate point. Music is art and J. Cole may disagree with the expression of how Lil Pump, Smokepurpp and others express themselves in their music. That being said - J. Cole is neither profound nor groundbreaking, and has said nothing to prove listeners otherwise. His lyrical compositions are not deep, are usually blatant observations, and are only perceived to be by comparison to party rap since he actually talks about content in his music; in other words, lyrically he is basic. And while there is a monumental difference between J. Cole's lyrical composition and rappers such as Lil Pump, there isn't much in word choice & sentence structure.

Using python, a mixture genius's api & javascript, I obtained several artists' lyrics and computed their average Flesch–Kincaid readability score (how easy it is to read 0 being impossible to 100+ being baby easy) and average grade level of their word choices and sentence scores. The results are below. For reference, the reading ease scores are: 100+: 2 year old easy, 90-100 : Very Easy, 80-89 : Easy, 70-79 : Fairly Easy, 60-69 : Standard, 50-59 : Fairly Difficult, 30-49 : Difficult, 0-29 : Very Confusing. The Grade levels are standard k-12th Grade.

Lil Pump






Matt Ox



J. Cole



Lil Xan



Cardi B



Lil Uzi Vert



Kendrick Lamar






While it is no secret that music has been getting dumber and dumber as the years go by, this was pretty interesting - even Kendrick Lamar, the critically acclaimed 'lyrical rapper', was not safe from the trend with an average lyrical grade level of 2nd grade. And while J. Cole has objectively better lyrics than Lil Pump, sentence structure and word choice wise he should definitely humble himself.

Using these metrics, J. Cole is clearly in the middle of the pack - just above Cardi B - and not that far above Lil Pump; they are both 1st grade level, the same as Matty Ox who is a literal 12 year old. Even the content of his lyrics has been under scrutiny so at the end of the day, are his shallow & basic lyrics that different on a macro scale? The short answer to that is no, however there is a lot of nuance that I am missing with that statement. Before I contunue however, it is also worth noting that the other Esketit artist Smokepurpp* and xanned about rapper Lil Xan stood out as some of the most ignorant lyrics in this small study, breaking the 100 readability score and having a lyrical level of kindergarteners - simply legendary.

*Sidenote it is important that Smokepurpp and Lil Pump have a song called ignorant where they chant: "Niggas hating on me cuz I'm ignorant," which is exactly what is happening

This is not to discredit J. Cole entirely though; these new rappers are a terrible influence. Lil Pump is essentially an incorrigible public menace who has done nothing to better the society around him, and whos message, albeit fun, is shallow and destructive. That being said… ESKETTITTTTTTTT. Although J. Cole is basic, he has spread a message of positivity and has worked semi-diligently to better those around him. He is also noticeably philanthropic, founding the charity Dreamville, which aims to "reveal to the urban youth, their limitless potential, through positive life- altering experiences."

He even regularly donates school supplies -- including backpacks, notebooks and pens -- and he announced that his old Fayetteville home, made famous on the cover of his album, "Forest Hills Drive," would serve as rent-free transitional housing for single mothers in the Cackalack.

These is something that is definitely admirable about Cole’s mission, and rappers like the 'Lil's' should definitely aspire take after artists’ like him, even if they just 'made it out your mama's house.' (J. Cole - 1985 (Intro to "The Fall Off")) So in conclusion, J. Cole may not be a philosopher nor groundbreaking, but he is definitely someone to be admired. And while definitely wrong in his lyrical prowess, he certainly has a permanent place in hip-hop history. Thoughts?