KOD. Kids on Drugs. King Overdosed. Kill Our Demons. Such simple phrases we probably overlooked when Jermaine Cole—better known as J. Cole—released his fifth studio album, KOD. The beats, the lyrics, and the “feature” (is it really a feature, though?) on the album—everything caught our attention, but there was more to it than that. At the KOD concert on October 8 at Capital One Arena, J. Cole revealed the true purpose of his album: life is a journey and we must choose wisely.
“My name is Cole, Cole Fucking World” said the man of the hour as the crowd goes insane. While the stage seemed rather simplistic with its two sets of KOD balloons hanging from the ceiling and two camera displays in the form of a cube, it was quite a view. In performing “Photograph”, the background was exactly that– images of women on social media with their faces blurred, causing the crowd to sing along to the lyrics. However, when hyped songs such as “Fire Squad” and “Motiv8” came on, the crowd went wild alongside Cole, who was jumping around the stage.
KOD is filled with hype songs—songs that any normal artist would choose to begin their concerts with, but J. Cole is not a normal artist. He indeed started off with a bang, but not in the sense that one might think. As the stage curtain fell and “Window Pain (Outro)” began, Cole walked out in a dark blue tracksuit and tan sneakers. It was Cole time.
If you have listened to the album, you know that this song is not about the beat or its hype, but rather the lyrics. In this sense, Cole was making a statement from the very beginning: this concert was going to be more than just a musical event. It was going to be a moment for everyone to reflect on their own lives. In defining the three parts of KOD, Cole stated the following: “Kids on Drugs—everyone deals with addiction of some sort, whatever it may be (drugs, sex, etc.); King Overdosed—that is me personifying the character that is addiction; and Kill Our Demons—that is us overcoming the bullshit.” This was a journey, as Cole emphasized, that his concert experience would guide us through.
But with every journey, there must be a starting point and some pitfalls, and Cole made sure the audience understood that from the beginning. In performing popular songs that the crowd knew well, including “No Role Modelz” and “Power Trip”, Cole was showcasing his own success as an artist. Still, while these songs show his incredible achievements, he never forgets where he started from. His performances of older songs like “Work Out” and “Ville Mentality” indicate that Cole is still very much in touch with his humble beginnings, even if he is at the top of the world. He summed it up best after performing “Nobody’s Perfect.” “You rob yourself from the journey… [doing that] 0 to 100… If you go from 0 to 100, you miss out on 27 and 27 feels really fucking good,” he said.
While all our troubles differ, there is one thing we all struggle with: taxes. It may seem strange that this is one of the topics Cole discussed, but that is what his song “BRACKETS” is all about. “Do y’all feel what the fuck I’m talking about on that song? If you tired of paying these bitch ass taxes, you don’t know where the fuck your money going, make some motherfucking noise,” said Cole, making the crowd go wild. He addressed how one’s hard-earned money tends to be taken away before it even reaches the hands of the ones who worked for it, and to that, the crowd cheered in agreement. In shedding light on this issue, Cole draws our attention to what we rightfully deserve and how we should never settle.
The journey. It may consist of mundane issues like taxes, but it also consists of unbearable pain. Regardless of where we come from, what we do, what we become, there will be some sort of pain we will have to overcome—we are human, after all. Yet, as Cole brought up, if pain is something we must all deal with, how come no one teaches us how to surpass it? Even as the 30-year-old success story, Cole, stands on the stage, he states he is still dealing with issues, although he does not specify what. However, while learning to deal with pain is not something that comes easily, it is something we should all learn to deal with now rather than later. As a personal reminder for himself to deal with this pain now, Cole performed what he claimed was his favorite song, “Love Yourz,” and the crowd felt his emotion in every word.
This was a concert like no other in the sense that it was not about the songs Cole performed, but rather his interaction with the crowd centering around the topics he referred to in his songs. We all know Cole does not release songs or albums simply to reach the top of the charts, but because of the meaning behind them. In putting out KOD, Cole wanted to shed light onto issues that are not discussed as often as they should such as addiction (in any form), taxes, and dealing with pain, but also the process in overcoming any of these problems. Life is a journey filled with joy and pain, and while it seems like the pain overshadows the joy, we will eventually reach that joy.
It took Cole some time, but right now, even as he sits on the throne, he feels there is more for him to do. Like he said during his show, he feels like he is at an 88 on a 100 point scale in terms of how much he has accomplished, so he’s not done yet. Whether this means a mixtape or album is coming, it’s difficult to say. Yet, as he has reminded us, all that matters is the journey. Regardless of one’s beginning, they can reach the top if they reflect on their journey as a means for growth. Isn’t that right, Cole?