‘The New Jim Crow’ Inspired J. Cole To Not Rap About Himself

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In today’s landscape of rap, you will be pressed to find anyone with longevity and staying true to himself throughout it all more than Jermaine Cole. Going by the stage name, J. Cole, he is considered to be a conscious rapper that brings light to touching subjects such as police brutality, mass incarceration, and the socio-economic gap. It is what separates him from the numerous rappers around the world.

He may have found even more to rap about after reading some thought provoking material in The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. The rap star sat down with Ryan Coogler and Marshawn Lynch during a MLK Now panel on Monday, Cole spoke about how Michelle Alexander’s non-fiction book and moving back to North Carolina helped inspire him to stop rapping about himself in his rhymes.

“[The New Jim Crow] was mind-blowing. It was everything we saw and see but just put into factual evidence of what was happening,” said Cole during the discussion with Black Panther director Ryan Coogler and NFL running back Marshawn Lynch. “It happened to coincide with a time after the Forest Hills Drive album – a time in my life where I was just tired of rapping about myself.”

The Grammy-nominated musician added, “So much of my career, my art was storytelling from my own perspective. I always would give you little branches of somebody else’s perspective, but so much of it was my personal journey, my personal growth, my personal flaws, this, that, and the third. And it was a time period when that was not interesting to me.”