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In a world where rappers seek out attention, J. Cole is one who prefers to keep it low-key. Shunning big-budget promotional campaigns, social media, and the obligatory press run; he has managed to be successful playing the long game by taking a grassroots approach more akin to an indie artist than a platinum-selling, Grammy nominated superstar.
Earlier this month, Cole and his camp did the unthinkable. They announced the epic recording sessions for Revenge of the Dreamers III, Dreamville Records' latest compilation showcasing their roster of talent. Complete with invites inspired by Charlie and The Chocolate Factory, the sessions drew a who's who of the rap industry and put the rap world on notice that 2019 would be the year of Dreamville.
Looking to build on that momentum, Cole announced his plans to release a single titled "Middle Child," sending casual listeners and die-hard fans into pandemonium. The song, which was unleashed on Wednesday (Jan. 23) evening, captures the lyricist in a focused and invigorated state of mind, as he addressed a myriad of topics. It was also a reminder that at his best, Cole's one of the best MCs in the game.
After listening to his latest release, REVOLT decided to read between the lines and highlight five things we took away from Cole's "Middle Child." Check them out below.
1. The Meaning Behind The Title
"I'm dead in the middle of two generations/I'm little bro and big bro all at once/Just left the lab with young 21 Savage/I'm 'bout to go and meet Jigga for lunch."
Making his first big splash in 2009 with his breakthrough mixtape The Warm Up, Cole was touted as one of rap's leaders of the new school during the earlier years of his career. Five studio albums deep and with platinum plaques galore, the pride of Fayetteville is in a peculiar position. No longer a rook -- yet lacking the seniority of artists that made their mark before him -- the star points to this by speaking about his relationships with 21 Savage and JAY-Z, respectively.
2. The Camaraderie Between Him And Drake
"Just put the Rollie right back on my wrist/This watch came from Drizzy, he gave me a gift/Back when the rap game was praying I'd diss/They act like two legends cannot coexist."
Since being pegged as this generation's likely successors to Nas and JAY-Z at the outset of their careers, Cole and Drake have been compared to and pitted against one another over the past decade. However, the Dreamville captain makes it clear that he and Drake are quite cordial, referencing a pricey Rolex the 6 God gifted him as a show of goodwill. Referring to himself and his Canadian counterpart as "legends," Cole quells any speculation of the two engaging in a war of words -- at least anytime soon.
3. The Subliminal Disses
"But I'd never beef with a nigga for nothin'/If I smoke a rapper, it's gon' be legit/It won't be for clout, it won't be for fame/It won't be 'cause my shit ain't sellin' the same/It won't be to sell you my latest lil' sneakers/It won't be 'cause some nigga slid in my lane."
Vocal about his admiration for his rap forefathers, one veteran artist that has disappointed Cole in recent years is Kanye West, whom he allegedly took to task on his 2016 loosie "False Prophets." And after listening to a few choice bars in Cole's opening verse of "Middle Child," it appears as though he's not done addressing Mr. West. Although Cole doesn't mention West by name, the evidence points directly to Ye, whose spat with Drake over his mention of his Yeezy Boost 350 sneaker on French Montana's 2018 single "No Stylist." Making his disdain for publicity stunts clear, Cole's latest alleged jabs already have the internet running wild and anticipating a response from West himself.
4. His Growing Chemistry With T-Minus
Reigniting his buzz as a boardsman in 2017, T-Minus first connected with Cole after providing the beat for 6LACK's Cole-assisted single "Pretty Little Fears." Since that collaboration, the two created magic again with "Kevin's Heart," which gave the pair their first Top 10 Billboard entry as a tandem. If their work on "Middle Child" is any indication of the future, T-Minus and Cole appear to have another hit on their hands as they continue to capitalize on their budding chemistry.
5. His Evolution As A Mentor
"Everything grows, it's destined to change/I love you lil' niggas, I'm glad that you came/I hope that you scrape every dollar you can/I hope you know money won't erase the pain."
"Had a long talk with the young nigga Kodak/Reminded me of young niggas from 'Ville/Straight out the projects, no faking, just honest/I wish that he had more guidance, for real."
One of the more thoughtful and approachable artists in hip hop today, Cole has not only become a champion for the people, but up-and-coming rappers. Since sending shots at the new crop of "mumble rappers" on his 2016 buzz single "Everybody Dies," the rapper has began to reach common ground with the new influx of rap stars. From chopping it up with Lil Pump, sending words of encouragement to Logic, and revealing his recent interaction with Kodak Black on this verse; it's clear that Cole is embracing being a mentor as he enters the next level of his career.
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