“I Don’t Know If I’m Free”: Eight Truth Bombs From J. Cole
The rapper talked capitalism, hip-hop, the media and love with Power 105.1 and NPR this weekend.
After performing his powerful protest song "Be Free" on Letterman last week, J. Cole spent the weekend dropping truth bombs in poignant interviews with both Angie Martinez on Power 105.1 (above) and Ali Shaheed Muhammad and Frannie Kelley on NPR (below). Touching on the themes behind both his new album 2014 Forrest Hills Drive (which he reveals was originally a double album) and his protest song "Break Free", his views on the capitalism, hip-hop, and the media and recent events in Ferguson and New York, it's worth giving both a close listen, but here's eight of the most interesting quotes that stuck with us.
1. "20 or 30 years from now, I see hip-hop being completely white."
"I went to the iTunes jazz page, and I was like, oh! It hit me. You go right now, the entire page of iTunes jazz is like 97% white people....anybody can do whatever music they want, it's art, whatever. But you have to understand, at one point in time—first of all, jazz is black in its origin. And not only is it black, it was the hip-hop of its day. It was that rebellious...And it hit me: this is the time when you're seeing that switch in hip-hop. We're literally watching it right now. It's the system's fault. It's no one's fault, it's not Iggy Azalea's fault, it's not Eminem's fault...there comes a time when the system realises, 'I can sell this white person a lot easier'...it just becomes easier because this guy looks like the majority of America." [Power 105.1]
2. "Capitalism is the same set-up as slavery."
"If I walk past you on the street in New York City I could be absolutely positive—I don't know you, I never met you—but I could be absolutely sure that...whatever you're doing in your life's work is for you, and for your benefit only. It's literally for your life, and for your monetary gain, because you gotta survive and you're worried about you...That's what capitalism teaches us. It's an every man for himself mentality. It's 'I gotta be on top.' For me to be on top, I gotta have a bottom...I don't know the alternative, I don't even know if it exists, I don't think we've evolved to something that exists yet. But capitalism is just paid slavery." [Power 105.1]
3. "The news ain't set up to inform you."
"No disrespect, but this whole system is not set up to bring truth.It's not set up to bring the real news. The news ain't set up to inform you, it's set up to make money. I was a Communications major, I know...this building right here is run off advertising money." [Power 105.1]
4. "If you're trying to attain something that's unattainable you will never be happy."
"Some people base their happiness off of material things, money, women or whatever. I was basing my happiness on success, or what I thought was success. And any time you base your happiness—this is what the album is all about—any time you base your happiness on something that is not real, something that's unattainable or never satisfying...You can never have enough money, if money is what you seek. You'll never have enough success if success is what you seek. You'll always be reaching." [NPR]
5. "I don't know if I am free."
"We're all slaves to something...I don't feel that I'm all the way free, you know what I mean? I don't feel like any of us are, unless you're super evolved, super spiritually evolved...like a Buddhist monk, those guys are free." [NPR]
6. "Black America needed that smack in the face [of Ferguson]."
"When the Darren Wilson non-indictment came...America needed that, Black America needed that smack in the face, so we could see what it really is. But when that happened, the way my mind works is, 'okay what's the answer? What can we do, what's the solution?'" [NPR]
7. "It's not cool any more to rap about being a drug dealer."
"It's a cycle, you know what I mean? It's like, your uncle killed my uncle...it's a cycle that's hard to get out. But I was telling [Kendrick Lamar], if there's anybody that can [change] it, it's him. Because he's from Compton, he's from there, he has the power." [NPR]
"What's being played right now, what's being said, it don't represent us no more...We've gotten into a cycle, we've been pimped and in turn been pimping ourselves. We've gotten into a cycle of thinking that this music that we ingest or we sell to the world really represents us...It don't represent us no more. I don't know if it ever did, or if it just represented what could be sold, what could be marketed, what could be pushed. Does it represent the mentality of a small amount of people in this community? Yeah, sure. An exaggerated version. But it don't represent who we are." [Power 105.1]
8. "The message - which is ultimately what all of this comes down to - is love."
"That's the only thing that can solve all of this. I've found myself some days getting so upset...I let the anger and the bitterness build up and come out. But on my best days, I know that that's not gonna get it done. That's not gonna bring people together...Anger and bitterness lead to hatred, and that's not gonna get it done." [NPR]