Exploring the different themes in J. Cole's "KOD"
Whether you like to call the album Kids on Drugs, King OverDose, or Kill Our Demons, it’s clear that J. Cole has a lot to get off ofhis chest with creating this incredible body of work.
“God was just giving it to me like ‘Here nigga, I’ll write it for you just take the credit,’” he reportedly said to the crowd regarding the two weeks working on this 5th album. It’s been over a year since we last heard from Cole world when he dropped his last album 4 Your Eyez Only. The whole social media world turned to chaos when Cole went onto his social media change up his avi and dropped the album title & listening sessions both in NYC and London on two separate occasions.
It felt great hearing Cole sounding motivated and hungry again with rapping and getting the message across for KOD. Cole is a polarizing figure. Whenever he just ups and decided to come out of the blue because he just says something to get off of his chest, the people will stop look, pay attention, & listen. What’s crazy is how even with all of this notoriety around him, you just how in the fuck is this man famous because at times it’s like he never tends to act like he’s famous at all. Once he’s completed everything needed in regarding his album, he suddenly goes back into hiding until the next go round.
There’s so much to soak in regarding Cole’s album. He’s explained the meaning behind the three names of the album & prompts the listeners to create their own interpretations with the album on his twitter. After carefully soaking in the album, whether it was through personal leisure, the gym, the whip, etc, i can officially confirm for myself that this was the best that I’ve heard from Cole since around 2013 with Born Sinner. Outside of Cole really rapping his ass off, he also gave the listeners substance and meaning behind each of the tracks throughout the album. Here were some of the themes covered throughout KOD.
The concept of addiction arises as Cole teaching this crash course topic to uncover different addictions rooted in our everyday living, especially with the younger generation. In the album trailer for KOD, you can hear a disoriented voice of Cole (or rather we say kiLL edward) talking about the Kids on Drugs concept. “If I turn on the TV right now, it's not going to take long for there to be advertisement that says Are you feeling down? Are You been having lonely thoughts ? And then they shove a pill in your face.”
Whether it’s an addiction to chasing that almighty dollar (ATM, Motiv8, Brackets) , social media love (Photographs), Sex (Kevin’s Heart), Drugs and alcohol (Friends, Once an Addict Interlude), etc. Each level of addiction plays a role on the album. While speaking on the subject for King Overdose in the trailer, Cole continues discussing addiction but more on self accountability basis informing listeners that he also has been and continues to be afflicted by the same methods of escape. That’s another way of letting others be aware that they're not the only ones. His overall end goal for this album as described during the portion for KIll Our Demons, is to face the demons that we run from, own up to them, and figure out the life traumas we faced that got us to our current predicaments that we’re in now.
MONEY & SOCIAL STATUS
Society has two of the most important aspects in life: Money & social status. These two subjects are constantly thrown in our faces around when a point is being brought up. It’s a mechanism people use when they want things going their way. When you’re dealing with people from different walks of life, you find that sometimes the only thing they bring to the table is their social status and money, which then results in a plethora of superficial relationships. Everybody is on a chase to obtain that almighty dollar regardless of where our morals stand in life. Without listening to the lyrics, ATM sounds like a banger but when you get in tune towards what’s actually being said, Cole is really describing him being caught up in a rat race chasing that almighty dollar
I know that it's difficult/ I'm stackin' this paper, it's sort of habitual/ I blow the residual/ And fuckin' yo bitch like its part of my ritual
Pardon the visual/ But money, it give me a hard-on it's typical/ I want it in physical/ A million dollars, I count up in intervals/ Without it I'm miserable
My favorite Cole verse on Brackets is his second verse where he’s referencing about the american tax system. He guesses that the tax money initially is supposed to be going to improving the roads and schools but isn’t convinced any of this is getting done due to seeing the results as the homies are graduating without the proper tools to help them get by.
One thing about the men that's controlling the pen
That write history, they always seem to white-out they sins
This is one of my favorite lines on the song by the way. Brackets is the story of one's journey climbing up the social status and tax brackets, especially within the underprivileged neighborhoods.
One of the funniest things that I find intriguing was when I was listening to our home podcast Ball Don’t Lie I heard Pierce (@HennyOmega) mention that Photograph was a shot at the sadboys of Twitter. I found that very hilarious but yet accurate in a sense. Social Media over the years has been a gift and a curse for us.
It’s a gift because we’re in the information age where everything is available for us to research. Everyday there’s a new story being introduced to us about certain historical figures.People are also able to create dope platforms to showcase their talent and point of view on world topics.
It’s also considered a curse because everybody literally has access to social media. Even though it’s a good thing, it’s also bad because certain individuals ideologies are just dangerous rhetoric that will do nothing but cause harm and tear others apart.
When you listen and take in the chorus words for Photograph, you can put into thought that even though Cole may be talking from the perspective of someone lusting over someone in the internet, you can also sense the feelings of possessiveness and longing for that follow back. On Social Media, some people showcase their feelings of “please follow me back.” The things that people will do for likes and retweets can be very surprising and telling. Also reading into his verse where he’s mentioning the perfect dream woman, you can catch that this could be another mechanism of escape from reality.
LOVE & INFIDELITY
Even though it’s been mentioned that Cole could actually be singing from a stance of the person who is in love with drugs, when you watch the visual for Kevin’s Heart which featured the man himself, Kevin Hart, you can’t help but see how love & infidelity playing a part for the album indirectly. In the video, you can see Kevin living his day to day life going to the grocery store and taking meeting at a restaurant but the only difference is that you get to see the reactions of the people around him after finding out about him cheating on his current wife, Eniko Parrish. I'm really interested in hearing the conversation about what led up to deciding upon that theme for the visual.
Also you can find the subject of love on Photograph as well where Cole obsessing over a woman on social media depicting the social media era aspect of love and romance. During the first verse, Cole is rapping about this perfect dream girl whom he sees on social media who isn’t into gossiping and moves to the beat of her own drum.
THE DEBUT OF kiLL EDWARD
kiLL Edward was the only feature that was on KOD. He appeared on The Cut Off & Friends. Also a couple of days before the album dropped, there was a reference track that was on Soundcloud called Tidal Wave.
There was a lot of speculation that kiLL edward is really the alter ego for J-Cole. When you listen to his voice, it sounds like a distorted voice which sounds like Cole. It’s also a possible confirmation that kiLL Edward is a representation of Cole’s hatred for the man who hurt his mother. You can hear it on Windows Pain (Outro) when he says “All I wanna do is kill the man that made my momma cry.” Supposedly outside of Cole making his other new project The Fall Out that's coming son, kiLL Edward may also be coming out with his own project in the future.
Whether we like it do so or not, addressing an accountability amongst your loved ones can be a tough battle to face especially when it’s something necessary for both parties to reach a proper solution to help their relationships grow to the next level. It’s important for everybody to hold each other accountable for one another's actions. But when dealing with accountability, sometimes it can force to turn around and face the one person that you may not want to face: yourself.
Cole paints the picture of self accountability on the first half of Friends when it comes to dealing with his own coping mechanisms. He talks about his addictions to the point where he gets aggravated and conflicted when he isn’t partaking in medication. But I'm aggravated without it/ My saddest days are without it/ My Saturdays are the loudest/ I'm blowing strong/ Some niggas graduated to powder/ I dabble later, I doubt it/ My database of narcotics/ It's growing long. He also revisited accountability on Window Pain (Outro) when he questions himself about his career & purpose. Right now I'm starin' out the window of my Range and/ contemplating, am I sane?/ Have I sacrificed for fame?/ My occupation's on my brain/ Thought that I could change it all if I had change
MENTORING THE YOUTH (AKA LETTER TO NEW GENERATION RAPPERS)
When you're in your prime, time always comes experience. In life, you live and you learn from your mistakes. When you get older and in the right position in life, life is amazing. You’ll then run across other youngins who are starting off like you in the same spot and you desire to want to guide them and see them flourish by not making the same mistakes you or anyone else in your class did. Cole emphasizes a prophecy for younger rappers on what is to come for their future career on 1985 (which also serves as the Intro for his next coming project The Fall Off). He tells the young rapper that he’s supportive of their new accolades of fame and success. While he’s happy for their success, he also advises them to be weary of the new mainstream white audiences that come to their shows.
I must say, by your songs I'm unimpressed, hey/ But I love to see a Black man get paid/ And plus, you havin' fun and I respect that/ But have you ever thought about your impact?/ These white kids love that you don't give a fuck/ Cause that's exactly what's expected when your skin black/ They wanna see you dab, they wanna see you pop a pill/ They wanna see you tatted from your face to your heels/ And somewhere deep down, fuck it, I gotta keep it real/ They wanna be black and think your song is how it feels/ So when you turn up, you see them turnin' up too/ You hit the next city, collect your money when it's due/ You gettin' that paper, swimming' in bitches, I don't blame you/ You ain't thinkin' 'bout the people that's lookin' like me and you/ True, you got better shit to do
The response towards 1985 has been of mixed reactions from not only the fans but also some of the other younger rappers. Fans were trying to speculate which of the Lil’s that Cole was talking about. People speculate that Cole was talking about Lil Pump or Lil Yachty. Pump and Spaceghostpurrp have all made their responses towards Cole. People love this Cole song while others were criticizing him for allegedly taking shots at a young rappers. Personally for me, I don’t think Cole was really trying to take shots at any of the young kids but rather just telling them to wise up on some of their decision making. Of course we all know Hip-Hop is a young man's sport. But its also important for some of the kids to listen and understand what the OG’s are trying to school the younger kids on the ins and outs of the game. It’s understood that a lot of y’all are really soaking in all of this new money and opportunity that's heading in y’all direction. But all that’s being explained is to be real mindful of the people that love you and the money that you’re spending. Everything that he said on the album holds some truth and like it’s always said in life when you feel like you’re being talked about; If the shoes fit then wear it.
DEALING WITH THE GROWING PAINS OF LIFE
The KOD intro sets the tone for what the album is about. You can hear one of the phrases being echoed throughout the album. Life can bring much pain/ There are many ways to deal with this pain/ Choose wisely Life can a bitch and a half sometimes when you think about. You experience the good times and bad times in life. Especially the bad times. Life can really bring pain when it can. But at the end of the day, when it’s all said and done, It’s important to know that there's so different ways to managing your pain so choose wisely.