*

Rapstrology | J. Cole, Dr. Dre and the rebellious innovation of Aquarius

KC Orcutt

 // Jan 27, 2019

Much like the name suggests, 'Rapstrology' celebrates the beautiful (and curiously slept-on) intersection between hip-hop and astrology. Whether exploring the Zodiac is a guilty pleasure hobby, something to roll one's eyes at, or a swear-by daily guide to WTF is going on, this column aims to explore the roadmap that is astrology, through the context of hip-hop, lyrics and current events.


As Questlove worded it best, the season of the Soulquarian has began. While his tweet makes reference to the famed collective; whose influence spans decades and members included D'Angelo, Common, Erykah Badu, J. Dilla, Bilal, Q-Tip, Mos Def, James Poyser and Talib Kweli, among others; the name is also pays homage to the emotive creativity and dreamy intelligence that the Aquarian emits. Much like the coveted sessions that took place at Electric Lady Studios in New York in the late 90s/early aughts, those born under the Aquarian sun are true visionaries fueled by community and driven by humanitarian principles.

Highly intellectual, Aquarius thrive when they are able to engage their mind and invoke their spirit. A precarious, quicksilver blend of dreamers who do and doers who dream, one would be wise to include this air sign in every brainstorming session or important meeting. However, if an Aquarian isn't fully engaged or gets bored, a lack of motivation may take hold.

This forward-thinking sign lives in the future, a quality that understandably leads to feelings of isolation or being misunderstood by others. However, while Aquarius keeps their head in the clouds as the rest of the world looks on in critical wonder, it's important to remember that their selective detachment and solitude comes in waves. This reigns even more true when considering how the Aquarian is a rebel with a cause (of their own making) and won't pass up an opportunity to challenge the status quo with their eccentricities, their big ideas and their revolutionary way of thinking.



As displayed in the observational and at-times prophetic lyricism of artists such as J. Cole, Kid Cudi and Joey Badass; the Aquarian is tactful about what they have to say. Operating on their own timelines, these Aquarians absorb wisdom through their experiences, even if it may come off on a surface level that they don't seem as engaged as others in the room. Their aloofness is a secret weapon, making room for the art of surprise and later, impact.

As exemplified by the legendary Oprah, Dr. Dre and Rakim; Aquarius are often heralded for their groundbreaking endeavors and taste-making talents. Each have blazed a trail in their own respective lane, expanding into other ventures with both seemingly ease and seasoned expertise. Sometimes idealistic to a fault, this sign has the power to leave others intrigued, bewildered and in the best-case scenario, all the wiser. At times, the Aquarian ego may be consumed with the idea that others are sleeping on them, just to later be reminded that at the end of the day, this sign represents the core values and deep ideals that move society forward. The world will catch up eventually.

While Aquarius are celebrated for their minds and ability to spearhead spiritual revelation and scientific innovation, there can also be a dark side, especially when it comes to testing limits and taking things to an extreme. Artists such as XXXTentacion, Kevin Gates, Riff Raff, Bobby Brown and again Dr. Dre have a reputation tainted either by domestic violence (alleged or otherwise) or problematic pasts. There is a complexity behind Aquarius that can be hard to navigate in this regard, especially when placing their selfless accomplishments or oft-kindhearted personas at the forefront. Countless XXXTentacion fans, for example, saw how the troubled rapper was attempting to work through his demons prior to his tragic murder, citing his willingness to advocate on behalf of sexual assault victims and raise money for various causes as a demonstrative reflection of his true self. Artists such as Rick Ross have made ample controversial remarks that resulted in people questioning his character, all while Birdman's soured business relationship with Lil Wayne made others wonder exactly what was going on behind his infamous and maniacal head-rub.



Although artists such as Gucci Mane, Ice T and Juelz Santana have hardened pasts (and presents) and may not be proud of all of their choices; the Aquarian mission to keep moving forward, and invent themselves, speaks to their resilient nature. Others such as Cam'Ron, Big Boi, Logic, Lupe Fiasco and Big Freedia help round out the Water Bearer's dynamic attributes with each possessing qualities of inventiveness, independence, loyalty, stubbornness, indecision and the ability to win over the co-sign without revealing too much about their personalities. Much like every piece of the Zodiac puzzle, we can all learn from the playbook of Aquarius, especially when it comes to lessons surrounding matters of the heart and the mind.

Now that we have covered some of the basics and placed a spotlight on the multifaceted array of artists born as Aquarius, here are some lyrical gems to keep in mind and when the mood strikes, keep on repeat.

J Cole - January 28th (2014 Forest Hills Drive)
Daily Music

Song: "January 28th" by J. Cole

Lyrical Mantra: "Think we need a plan of action / The bigger we get the more likely egos collide, it's just physics / Please let's put our egos aside, you my n—s / And should our worst tendencies turn us into enemies"

Aquarian'ism: While a long-running observation (and occasional meme) has been centered on J. Cole being boring, the Aquarian himself can't help but chuckle at the critique. As a deep thinker, he has an uncanny ability to look at the bigger picture and identify a logical solution to whatever the problem at hand may be. This sign is attuned to both the world as it is and the future as it could be, making Aquarius a realist and an imaginative idealist all at once. Egos to the side may be easier said than done. But, Cole can see it and therefore he's advocating for it.

Logic - 1-800-273-8255 ft. Alessia Cara & Khalid (Official Audio)
Visionary Music Group


Song: "1-800-273-8255" by Logic ft. Alessia Cara & Khalid

Lyrical Mantra: "I've been on the low / I been taking my time / I feel like I'm out of my mind / It feel like my life ain't mine / Who can relate?"

Aquarian'ism: Aquarius can often feel like outcasts of society. But, despite their intuitive reaction to detach, their humanitarian desires to make society better eventually takes precedent over their at-times ego-driven feelings of loneliness. Look at Logic's monumental Grammy-nominated track "1-800-273-8255." The 2017 anthem helped soundtrack a movement surrounding suicide prevention, resulting in an impactful surge of those utilizing the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. While balancing the need to take time out alone to process what one is going through with the need to feel community with others; Logic was able to elevate both his career, activism efforts and connect with countless fans on a personal level.

Kid Cudi- Pursuit of Happiness (Nightmare) Ft. MGMT and Ratatat -- Lyrics
masterfig573

Song: "Pursuit of Happiness (Nightmare)" by Kid Cudi

Lyrical Mantra: "Tell me what you know about dreaming, dreaming? / You don't really know about nothing, nothing / Tell me what you know about them night terrors every night / 5 AM, cold sweats, waking up to the sky? / Tell me what you know about dreams, dreams? / Tell me what you know about night terrors? Nothing / You don't really care about the trials of tomorrow / Rather lay awake in the bed full of sorrow."

Aquarian'ism: While there are countless examples in Kid Cudi's discography that showcase his forward-thinking, experimental style and deep lyricism; this song jumps out as an Aquarian anthem. It speaks to how being above the clouds metaphorically doesn't come without feeling the burdens of society and clearly seeing the sorrow woven into its very fabric. He's on a quest for happiness while also observing the perils that come with not quite crossing the finish line yet. Cudi is a passionate dreamer plagued by pain and his recent transparency about his mental health journey has been as inspiring as it has been relatable. Yup, Aquarian to the core.

Outkast - Aquemini (HD)
Jake Melvin


Song: "Aquemini" by OutKast

Lyrical Mantra: "The name is Big Boi, Daddy Fat Sax, the n—a that like them Cadillacs / I stay down with these streets 'cause these streets is where my folks at / Better know dat, some say we pro-black, but we professional / We missed a lot of church so the music is our confessional / Get off the testicles and the nutsacks / You bust rhyme, we bust back / Get-get back for real n—s that's out here tryin' to spit facts / You hear dat? You can't come near dat, maybe you need to quit / Because Aquemini is Aquarius and Gemini runnin' s—t like this."

Aquarian'ism: The title track to this classic anthem is an absolute must when it comes to discussing rapstrology, the intersection of hip hop and astrology. While a college course could easily focus on the brilliance of the art and cultural influence that these two air signs created together -- to keep it simple -- Aquarius and Gemini really do run it. Big Boi, the Aquarian of the pair; is a ruthless truth seeker, weaving his intelligence and ability to resonate with others into his rhymes. Together, he and André 3000 changed the rap game for the better, all while both respecting their paralleled differences and elevating one another's talents.

Dr. Dre - Nuthin' But a "G" Thang feat. Snoop Doggy Dogg
johnniewalker23

Song: "Nuthin' But a 'G' Thang" by Dr. Dre ft. Snoop Dogg

Lyrical Mantra: "Now it's time for me to make my impression felt / So sit back, relax, and strap on your seat belt / You never been on a ride like this befo' / With a producer who can rap and control the maestro / At the same time with the dope rhyme that I kick / You know and I know, I flow some old funky s—t / To add to my collection, the selection symbolizes dope / Take a toke, but don't choke / If you do, you'll have no clue / On what me and my homie Snoop Dogg came to do."

Aquarian'ism: Much like Aquarius and Gemini being compatible (Big Boi and André 3000), so is the pairing of Aquarius and Libra (Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg). While all air signs deal in communication and thinking, each brings their own perspective and energy to the table. With The Chronic, Dr. Dre cemented his legacy as one of the greats, refining g-funk as an official authority in west coast hip hop. Much like he raps on this increasingly nostalgic gem, Dre knew he was making history with every bar. Many Aquarians approach their art as a science, making the visual of Dr. Dre cooking up all sorts of madness in his lab that much more fitting. Dr. Dre set out to create a winning team and change the landscape of music, later going on to become one of the wealthiest hip hop figures, as a result.


More by KC Orcutt:

Video
From the top