This article originally appeared on the Clutch Blog Site as, “Inside the Mind: J. Cole”
Setting the scene and mentality of the album, J. Cole gives us his first track, “For Whom the Bell Tolls.” Within it, Cole attends a funeral and reflects upon his life. He has visions and develops feelings that he will soon meet a similar fate. He describes hearing the bells becoming increasingly louder and observes the rain pour down that signal his impending doom. He expresses this feeling of helplessness, “I’m searching and praying and hoping for something, I know I’m gon’ see it I know that’s comin’ lord, but what do you do when there’s no place to turn? I have no one I’m lonely my bridges have burnt down lord.” Cole has forseen his fate, but has no way of preventing it from happening. This desperation is foreshadowing of the inescapable consequences Cole will soon face.
powerful verses on the album, Cole transcends himself and brings up feelings many people have to deal with: being weak and vulnerable to someone else for the first time. He wants to show this side of himself, but he has been trained to suppress these emotions and this perceived weakness. He does not want his lack of emotion to mean he does not care though. Treading uncharted territory, Cole suddenly feels the need to live for love instead of fame and fortune. This again reiterates the distancing from “Immortal” and “For Whom The Bell Tolls” because of the love he has gained.
In one of the largest turns of the album, “Change,” Cole is maturing and realizing the societal challenges poor men face. His first two verses deal with religion and how it is difficult to believe in superior beings when there is such little hope in slums and cities. He compares young black men in these places to caged birds and how the home they have is taking away their freedoms. However, in the final verse, Cole raps how he plans on combatting this issue, “Yeah, prodigal son got a new gun, this one don't run out of ammo lately been working on my handles can I ball, become a star, and remain myself, if I fall, dust it off and regain myself f*** 'em all, they don't know all the pain I felt, I'm in awe, after all the fame I felt I evolve, I no longer bury demons I be a vessel for the truth until I'm barely breathing, I'm singing.”
Be soft. Do not let the world make you hard. Do not let the pain make you hate. Do not let the bitterness steal your sweetness. Take pride that even though the rest of the world may disagree, you still believe it to be a beautiful place.
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