1 Cole
wants to make it clear that people can believe in him to restore rap in a way
that reduces its admiration of white privilege and focuses more on the African
American race that created this genre and gives credit where credit is due. Cole
is trying to make it clear that it’s time to fix the inequality in hip-hop by
giving more credit to the African American rappers as, around this time, there
had been rising significance of “white culture” in hip-hop, namely Iggy
Azalea’s ascension and Eminem’s “white reign” over hip-hop. He wants people to
know that he can be the one that fixes that inequality.

1 At
this point, Cole makes it clear that he wants to begin his journey. To do so,
he must be the best he can be. Nothing can nor should be allowed to hold him
back as he fights to make himself known as he believes that he alone can be the
most successful in spreading the message. He cannot doubt himself anymore (the
“stress” causes breaks in his belief in himself and therefore must be avoided
at all costs) as it is only with belief in himself that he can reach the top.
Cole wants to move past his harsh upbringing and lower social and economic
“status” and become successful, both in pop culture and money terms. He is
directing his anger and powerful message at an imaginary girl who seems to be
holding him back. 

1 He
wants the African American race to take charge and make sure that the “white
privilege” in hip hop doesn’t get so bad that soon, hip-hop ends up being known
as “white music”. You can only earn money, and the resulting power and
recognition that comes with it if you aren’t afraid of upsetting the
established order and can take risks. He wants to get “power and recognition”
and use it to make himself known as the best and to reduce the significance
given to “white culture” in hip-hop.

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1 He’s
assuring the audience, namely the African American populace (but also “warning”
per se, the white community), that they can trust him to rise to the top and
take the throne of hip-hop. He wants them to believe in him wholeheartedly.

1 First,
Cole makes it clear that there is no way he can be stopped; the inevitable is
happening and that is his rise to dominance. In the following line (“A lotta
niggas sat on the throne”), Cole references Jay-Z and Kanye’s collaborative
album of Watch the Throne. Through
this reference, Cole is making it clear that even though that album placed
Jay-Z and Kanye at the top of the hierarchy, times have changed, tides have
turned, and Cole is the one in charge now. He’s making it clear that they have
been dethroned. In the following line, Cole makes yet another snide reference
to how, in the past, he wasn’t afraid to go up against these kings; in fact, he
even beat them and therefore isn’t afraid to do so again. He’s talking about
the time where he released his album Born
Sinner the same exact day that Kanye released Yeezus.  In that month, his
album beat Kanye’s as his sold more copies (outsold by quite a bit).

1 Cole
has a dual meaning here. Not only did he defeat the kings (Jay-Z and namely,
Kanye) in the previous summer (when he released Born Sinner) and make
them realize how it felt to be dethroned and no longer the most important
name(s) in hip-hop, he’s going to make people forget that they were ever the
kings and that instead, he is the one deserving of reverence. He also feels
that the entire rap genre and community will need some time to “heal”/adjust to
reality after he upsets the entire established order with his talent and
forcefully removes the kings from both their thrones and public memory.

1 Here
Cole references the song “Miuzi Weighs a Ton” by Public Enemy. Just as how
Public Enemy had emphasized, Cole is ready to rain down pain upon the current
hierarchy of hip-hop, and take his place at the top. He’s not afraid about
anyone who gets in his way (as guns “mow down” obstacles). Cole further goes on
to make himself seem better and more powerful than anyone else by saying he’s
going to carry two guns instead of one. Many rappers talk about owning a gun in
their songs, but Cole makes himself seem more prestigious by emphasizing his
bringing of two guns.

1 He’s
preparing to unleash his unrelenting attack on the hip-hop leadership and make
his talent well-known. He offers up a “prayer” to the Lord to make it clear
that he’s not stopping for anyone, doesn’t care about who he takes down, and
will do anything he can to make himself the best, no matter how “immoral” it
may seem to the people around him. He is ready to do anything to make sure
African American rappers take precedence once again in hip-hop.

1 While
Cole tries to stay true to himself, his goals, and what he believes to be true
(that he is the unquestionably the best), he must remember to not let this
battle for the “throne” of hip-hop turn him into something he’s not and would
regret. That said, even while maintaining this self-restraint, he pictures
himself in a setting where he’s absolutely killing/destroying other rappers
with his lyrical prowess.

1 Cole
thinks that his lyrical flow and rhymes are so good that they’re far in front
of the present/his time. Due to this belief, Cole believes that while he
discusses envisioning the future, he’s really just engaging in retrospection of
talent that he’s always had for as long as he knows (it’s something that’s
carried on from his past into his current situation because he’s just that
good-it hasn’t needed any changes).

1 J.
Cole believes that since everything he says and believes is true, you (the
audience) would do well to accept that and realize that Cole’s reign is just
beginning because if he believes if he can be the king of rap, then he will be
the king.  

1 Here,
Cole attempts to incorporate some humor by describing a common occurrence. Many
times, a girl will give a fake number to a guy she doesn’t really like. The
guy, thinking he’s won over the girl’s heart, goes home all happy and proud of
himself only to sadly realize later that he had been duped. In accordance with
this event, Cole is permitting the hip-hop community to believe that he’s
nothing and no one, only to realize later that he had been playing them all
along and that he in fact was the one who had defeated them.

1 Lots
of rappers want to be successful in their careers. However, half the rappers
clearly aren’t good enough and don’t have the talent needed to be a stand-out
star. The other half view themselves as “high and mighty” and too good.
Therefore, they end up putting in extremely minimal work as they believe that
since they’re so good, any output that they produce will automatically be
deemed “successful”. This minimal effort leads to them failing in this career
path. Either way, the result is that very few are good enough to make it in hip

1 Every
rapper wants to be the best. However, whereas some only care about pure
domination and don’t care about the actual rap game, Cole will make it his
mission to stick to making rap an African American-led style of music and
prevent it from ever falling into doubt again. You need someone who can prove
to you he’s got the skill needed to continue the reverence of African American
rap and not someone who just tries to scare people onto his path.

Ice-Cube and Ice-T, rappers from opposing coasts, were both gangster rappers
near the tops of their games during their times. They were both extremely
skilled in the art of rapping in the styles of their respective coasts as well
as in their abilities to discuss social issues in the black community in the
urban poverty/crime scene. 2 Live Crew was a hip-hop group that was known for
popularizing the Miami Bass style in the 1980’s as well as discussing
controversial yet crucial sexual themes in its music. Spike Lee is an extremely
acclaimed African American film director who was known for making movies which
analyzed both race relations and the existence of race conflicts in the black
community. Cole is saying that he’s so skilled that his talent is like a
combination of these four extremely renowned people/groups.

1 Bruce
Wayne is the powerful, menacing, and awe-inspiring vigilante known as Batman
whereas Bruce Lee is a Chinese martial arts fighter who was known during his
time as one of the most talented, powerful, and dangerous martial artists. Cole
is essentially saying that his lyrical prowess/genius is as deadly and powerful
as the combination of these two “heroes”, once again emphasizing that his
talent sees no bounds. 

1 Cole
is talking about Lil Wayne’s song “Brand New”. In that song, all Wayne talks
about is how rich he is and his consumerism-mindset where he’s always getting
the newest things. Cole says that essentially, he’s something never before seen
in the rap game, something that would’ve left even this boastful Wayne in shock
after he witnessed his extreme uniqueness. Cole then goes on to boast himself,
comparing himself to one of the current best players in the NBA in Kevin Durant.
He wants to emphasize that his own talent in comparison to the rest of the rap
game is leaps and bounds ahead of what Kevin Durant’s talent would
measure/amount to on a scale relative to the rest of the NBA.

1 In
this line, Cole pays respect to Drake’s famous song “Started from the Bottom”.
Like Drake, he wants to emphasize that he came from absolutely nothing. His
father had left his family, leaving a single mother to look after him and his
brother. That forced his family to relocate to an ethnically and socially
stresses environment in Fayetteville, North Carolina. He’s worked extremely
hard and persevered through hell to become the new king of rap that he views
himself to be. The rhyme scheme between “shirt” and “dirt” further emphasizes
his lack of wealth, power, status, and knowledge that he had when he began his
journey but had accumulated along the way.

1 Here
Cole really tries to rub in his skillfulness through an insightful alliteration
that centers around the letter “P” and a chess comparison. He wants to exhibit
the growth and power that he’s attained in terms of rap ingenuity. A pawn, in a
game of chess, is the least relevant piece in a game of chess; at times, these
pawns can even become hindrances. The king piece however is perhaps the most relevant
in the game as it is centered around that piece (the goal is to protect the
king from any instance of checkmate). Just like a transition from a pawn to a
king, Cole has gone from being unknown, talentless, and lackluster to someone
whose uniqueness and raw talent are things that people should and will revere.
The rhyming between “sing” and “king” shows that his musical and lyrical
abilities are the things that make him someone to be looked up to.

1 Here,
Cole tries to conclude the conversation with the aforementioned imaginary
female. He wants to be free to work on his music and talent as he pleases, with
nothing holding him back. That is the only way he can fully devote his time to
honing his abilities to conquer the rap game.

1 Now,
the song’s social connotation comes into play. He’s beginning to talk about
throughout history, white people have tried to take over everything and
anything that has belonged to the black community. They have always tried to
make the black community’s music their own. In the present situation, none of
the black rappers, in Cole’s eyes, are unique whatsoever. There’ll be one
rapper who has a unique style that has the public entranced and the rest of the
black rappers will try to get in on that publicity and fame by using that
‘ideal rap style’ in their own music instead of being innovative and ingenious.
This lack of ingenuity is what is perpetuating the white encroachment upon and
takeover of black hip-hop. This takeover can only be halted if black rappers
try to be innovative once again.

1 These
two lines refer solely to the white theft of black music and culture.
Originally, rock n roll was a genre that had been derived from various forms of
African American music. However, Elvis Presley, a white man, came along and popularized
it much more than any black artist had up to the point. In doing so, Elvis
essentially stole rock n roll and turned it into “white people music” (when
people say rock n roll nowadays, the first thing that comes to mind is ‘white
people’). Timberlake and Eminem also gained immense success through their
performances and uses of African American music(rap), thereby exhibiting
another scenario where white people are stealing the culture of the black
community and using it for their own gain. The biggest insult, however, came
when Macklemore won the Best Rap Album award at the 2014 Grammys. Macklemore’s
album, The Heist, was viewed to be
more of a “pop” album than actual rap. However, at that point, the white
community had already infiltrated the rap genre so much that they essentially
engaged in “indirect racism” by giving the award to a white man whose somewhat
pop album was apparently viewed to be better than the actual hardcore rap
albums produced by Kendrick (good kid,
M.A.A.D City), Jay-Z (Magna Carta…Holy
Grail), and Kanye (Yeezus), who
were actual African Americans performing African American music. Cole argues
that this injustice will continue unless the African American community returns
to its ability of being innovative.

1 Cole
is extremely angry at the fact that African American rappers only care about
competing amongst themselves while completely ignoring the white theft of
African American music. He believes that the intragroup competition is
distracting from the real issue, which is a loss of a piece of African American
culture to the white populace yet again.

1 Cole
has a bleak perspective in that he believes that white appropriation of African
American music is so ingrained in society that the disrespect towards black
rappers will continue. He believes that the year after this album (2015) will
be a year where Iggy Azalea wins rap-affiliated Grammys not because her music
is actually good and has merit as true rap, but only because she was popular in
the general, mass white audience.

1 Even
though Cole is just kidding with those jabs at the white artists, those jokes
have some truth behind them. Cole, even though he’s released some true hardcore
rap albums that certainly deserve some recognition, feels that he has won no
Grammys and thereby failed at the awards because of the white takeover of rap.
His album before this one, Born Sinner,
which got much praise from the hip-hop community, didn’t even get nominated.
This was a huge insult to Cole and a reminder that the bigger fight is stopping
the white takeover.

1 The
same talent that African Americans used to create the innovative rap genre in
the beginning is now being used against them by the white people who are trying
to take that innovative genius and use it for their own gain, thereby attempting
to exclude the original, founding black community in the process. However, no
one, not even the dominating whites, can one-up Cole in the rap game as his
talent will soon triumph everyone else’s.

1 Cole
is emphasizing that he is clearly much smarter than his opponents in the rap
game and it is this unique intelligence of his that will allow him to dominate.
He is possibly referencing the fact that he went to college (St. John’s
University). Since very few other rappers have gone to college and he knows
that, he believes this degree and its accompanying knowledge will allow him
outthink and thereby crush his lyrical opponents.

1 In a
lucid dream, people are privy to the fact that they can take the reins of the dream
and do as their mind pleases. Just like how lucid dreamers are in full control
of the dream, Cole realizes that he has all the resources that he will ever
need at his disposal and that he can use them to accomplish whatever his mind
and heart desire, which in this case is ascension to the top of the rap game
and turning rap back into “black” music.

1 Cole
will convince his haters that he’s someone to be respected in the rap game by
showcasing powerful verses that leave them in shock and with no other choice
than to admit that Cole has the talent needed to be one of the greats.

1 Cole makes sure to pay homage to his roots as “the
2-6” is another name for Fayetteville. He’s referencing his transition from his
beginning in that North Carolina town where he had very little to his position
today where he is armed with the talent, power, and recognition needed to claim
the throne of hip-hop. He is essentially saying that the leadership of hip-hop
is up for grabs as of now and that he’ll be the one to come down with it.

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