I’ve been practicing self-abuse in the form of listening intently to J. Cole’s Born Sinner. It’s not that I hate the thing, but there’s nothing that motivates me to listen. His beats are rarely spectacular and his meandering stream-of-consciousness writing style frustrates me because I hate trying but still getting all the way to the end of a song without any clue of what it was about. Born Sinner isn’t plain old bad, just pretty easy to sleep through when I’m tired of trying to listen. So I’m left without much to say about it.
But I do have at least one concrete thought that sprung from Born Sinner. It’s up above but I’ll repeat it:
If You Don’t Have Anything Smart to Say…Shut Your Pie-Hole
Cole managed to piss me off on the first damn song of Born Sinner. I was sitting back, listening, bored, and wondering why I even bother sometimes, when I was blindsided by this:
My verbal AK slay faggots
And I don’t mean no disrespect whenever I say faggot, okay faggot
Don’t be so sensitive
If you want to get fucked in the ass
That’s between you and whoever else’s dick it is
Pause, maybe that line was too far
Just a little joke to show how homophobic you are
Ummm…what!?!? Let’s examine this trainwreck passage:
- He took a perfectly fine line from a great Nas song, then added that slur to it, for no reason at all.
- He defends his disrespectful slur usage with the age-old and water-tight “no disrespect meant” defense, and in that defense he manages to say the slur two more damn times!
- He dismisses gay people’s right to be offended.
- He claims to not be against homosexuality as long as he isn’t involved. But in the process of making that claim he effectively passes judgement by describing the sex in those relationships with needlessly graphic language.
- He then claims it was all a joke, somehow meant to prove that the listener is homophobic. Riiiiight. You spew some stupid, hurtful things, then you claim it was all a ploy to show me my own flaws? You’ve gotta be kidding. Please be kidding. Don’t be that dumb…
(From the Huffington Post)
In a statement sent exclusively to HuffPost, Cole said the following: “There will soon come a day when people in general, and rap artists specifically, are going to have to answer for their past usage of the word ‘faggot,’ much like the Grandfathers who are ashamed that they used the word ‘nigger’ as kids. At a time when public acceptance of gay rights is soaring (rightfully), hip-hop culture and general are still battling with homophobia (not excluding myself). Rather than run from it I chose to attack it playfully. Those lyrics are meant to make everyone uncomfortable for the sake of this very conversation.”
Yup, that’s what you’re trying to do. Spark conversation by being the very thing you claim to be speaking out against. Speaking in first-person, then claiming, after-the-fact, that the music actually isn’t you but a character you created to illustrate a point. It worked for gangsta rappers, why not homophobes? The problem is that Cole isn’t at all talented enough to pull off what he tried to do. His ham-fisted attempt at parody, “attacking it playfully”, mainly just reinforces those homophobic ideas that he claims to be against. He tries to pass it off as social commentary but the punchline that would make it such doesn’t land at all. At best, this is a regrettable overreach that should have been crossed out the moment it hit a sheet of paper. At worst, it’s latent homophobia plus an “o shit, gotta fix this quick” moment that is the weak last line.
I’ll give J. Cole the benefit of the doubt, he probably wasn’t intentionally being mean. But the failure to turn this verse into something meaningful is spectacular. Clearly, he doesn’t have enough experience to handle such a topic with the necessary nuance and tact, so I’m mad that he tried at all and forced us to listen to the horrid results. Hip-hop has a long way to go regarding homophobia, and I doubt that trash like this helps us along in any way. For better listening on the topic, check out Murs’ song Animal Style.