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It’s Still a Cole World: A closer look at J. Cole’s recent hit G.O.M.D.

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Smith chapter.

There’s no question that J. Cole took his music to a new level with the release of his latest album, 2014 Forest Hills Drive. Not only has Cole’s subject matter evolved into discussions about more mature, relevant, and controversial topics, but also the album was unique in that no singles were released prior to the full album release and there were no features on the album (meaning Cole is the sole artist on every song).

Upon listening to the album for the first time, the song, “G.O.M.D.” stood out to me and continues to be my favorite track on the album. Cole discusses the conflicts, both internal and external, that come with fame and focuses most on his fear of becoming someone who he didn’t used to be and the perception of others that he has become someone new.

He discusses his need for privacy and the fact that he doesn’t need to broadcast his every move. He knows who he is and he knows that he is going to continue to try to be who he has always been despite the pressures of the rap world to conform to the stereotypical “rapper archetype.” He notes that nobody sings about love anymore—or any complex subjects for that matter—but that they would rather sing/listen to songs like the famous “Get Low,” which follows a simplistic repetition of the lyrics, “to the window, to the wall” and really has no deeper meaning.

Cole goes even further and broadens his commentary on the lack of depth in popular rap. He takes the discussion to a societal level saying, “Why every rich black n**** gotta be famous? Why every broke black n**** gotta be brainless? That’s a stereotype, driven by some people up in Ariel Heights.” It is unclear where Cole is referring to when he says, “Ariel Heights,” but it can be inferred that wherever it is, it is likely made up of narrow-minded people who perpetuate the aforementioned stereotypes. By noting these two stereotypes, he continues to question the current state of rap and racism.

Cole seemed to have packed about as much into one song as you possibly could, as he talks about racism, his personal changes, the unfortunate state of most of rap culture, and others’ perceptions of who he is. But, when Cole released his video for G.O.M.D. on March 23, he managed to go even deeper.

The video begins on a slave plantation where Cole appears to be a “house slave” who is in charge of the other actors portrayed as slaves. Cole’s skin tone is noticeably lighter than the other black actors featured, which explains his place in charge, a typical situation in that period, although he is still beneath the white family whose plantation he works on. At the beginning of the video, Cole doesn’t seem to be very popular among the other slaves, which mimics his rise to fame and the scorn he receives from those “beneath” him who knew him before he got famous.

As the video continues, Cole manages to steal the white plantation owner’s set of keys, which unlock a cabinet full of weapons. Cole quietly gathers all of the slaves, distributes the weaponry, and “captures” the white family, except for one of the white women who has helped Cole with his scheme to escape. At this point, Cole becomes an equal, as does the woman who has helped him put this plan into action. He paints a picture of a detailed hierarchy based on skin color and by the end morphs this hierarchy into one, even playing field.

The commentary on racism and its prevalence in our country throughout history, and still to this day, seems obvious. But Cole has also noted that he is trying to make a statement about the importance of unity and togetherness. Without unity, no change can be made. He may be perceived to be “above” the others in his hometown as a result of his fame and fortune, but without them, Cole cannot make the changes he would like. He makes it clear that he believes it is not just about black versus white, but also dark black versus light black, which can be taken literally or more figuratively to mean that there is racism and hierarchy within races, and until we can blur those lines and come together as one, the problems we are facing within our society will never be resolved.

The video ends with a group of white men on horses, different from the original white family featured, who approach Cole and the other plantation workers as they are celebrating their victory over the white family whom they work for. Cole leaves the rest up to the imagination, but it is likely he concludes the video this way as a representation of the cycle of racism and lack of unity. As soon as you think you’ve won, there is another battle to fight and that battle may be exactly the same as the last.

Cole’s video for G.O.M.D. is worth a watch even if you are not a J. Cole fan, or a hip-hop fan at all. A variety of important messages can be taken from this video and it leaves the viewer with much to think about. To say the least, I cannot wait to see what Cole has in store for us next, but for now, there is still much to soak in from 2014 Forest Hills Drive.

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