J.Cole’s intelligent and vividly-expressive musical conscience isn’t limited to the studio. The nominee for Best Hip-Hop Video at this year’s MTV Video Music Awards can also express himself on social issues, and brings a unique perspectives and fearless straightforwardness to the game.
In a recent BET.com interview Cole discussed getting pulled over in Manhattan and how his race affects his life in good ways and shady ways.
“Just got pulled over on 42nd street in Times Square for what I believe was nothing. They said it was for tints on my front window. I really believe it was because I had my hat low… and was looking “suspicious” as a Black man with my brim low, when I was really just trying to cover my face. I feel like if I was a white man driving, they wouldn’t question me about my tints. I am so used to that. That’s something that I feel like somebody my age that’s white doesn’t have to go through, especially in New York City. On the other hand, every time I’m on the plane in first class—this is a lesser evil but it still represents their mind state—I promise you, 60 percent of the time somebody asks me what basketball team do I play for or do I rap.. I hate that I’m fitting into the same stereotype.”
Cole went on to address why he purposely features dark-skinned women in his videos. The light -skinned versus dark-skinned issue has been a long standing one within the black community. It was an underlying theme of one of Spike Lee’s classics, School Daze. The light-skinned “pretty” girls were seen as the popping chicks, and they called the purposely nappy-haired, dark-skinned girls, Jigaboos. Cole says he enjoys those same benefits as a light-skinned male, and it pisses him off.
“Those mental chains are still on us. That brainwashing that tells us that light skin is better, it’s subconsciously in us, whether we know it or not… still pursuing light skin women. Barack Obama would not be President if he were dark skin. You know what I mean? That’s just the truth. I might not be as successful as I am now if I was dark skin…it’s a sad reality. So I can only naturally assume it’s probably easier for a light skin male rapper than it might be for a dark skin male rapper. It’s all subconscious s***, nobody’s aware — I think that s*** still subconsciously affects us.
It’s rare that a rapper gives a well-articulated opinion about social issues. Sure, there were a slew of rappers who made Trayvon Martin songs and joined light protests throughout the country, but Cole has a strong, experienced opinion on the color barrier that still exists between black folks, and how we are perceived in this country.
He sort of sounds like a white guy, who has to almost apologize for being white and privileged because he knows the darker skinned brothers are going to get the short end of the stick and the longer road to success.
He’s acknowledged how his skin color has elevated him in his pursuit of fame, and most likely has many creative buddies who haven’t achieved his level of success, and can’t think of a reason why, other than they were dark-skinned.
Cole’s probably heard many times, how he has “the look” and is “more marketable” than a darker Ace Hood, for example. Cole wasn’t saying, “thank God I’m not dark-skinned” because at the end of the day he will be subjected to similar setbacks that all black men encounter—even celebrities.
He seems genuinely burdened by the lack of racial progress in this country and how old stereotypes have conditioned us to a point where it’s still affecting our interaction as every day people. If you’re not black—or according to J.Cole light-skinned—you won’t experience issues of discrimination as often as the ones lacking the complexion for the protection.
This is a reality that America may never shake, because it’s hard for oppressors to build a country on the back of an oppressed people and then fully accept them into society without still projecting some kind of attitude or nature that cheapens or lessens the traditionally-oppressed people’s existence, as they try to become successful in this country.
Issues of race still need to be discussed. If rappers hold the major influence with young people these days, it’s good that Cole is open with his opinions. It’s sure to make other young kids feel like what he’s talking is important enough to discuss. It beats discussing face tats and gang sex initiations. It would be good to see him take the lead on more issues particularly affecting young people.