Rapper and singer Jermaine Lamarr Cole, known as J. Cole is back with his first album in a few years, The Off-Season. On it, his song “my.life” is climbing the charts as it gives a glimpse into J.Cole’s upbringing, a childhood filled with poverty and violence. It also focuses on the life he currently lives, free of the things that once surrounded him.
J. Cole celebrates the fact that he’s successfully made it out of poverty and is still alive and well (“And I done made it out the struggle, don’t judge me/What you sayin’ now won’t budge me”). Most people who share his background cannot say the same (“’Cause where I come from, so often/People you grow up with layin’ in a coffin”). Because of this, he’s choosing to press on and pay attentiuon to what matters (“What you sayin’ now won’t budge me”).
Elsewhere, he paraphrases Isaiah 54:17: “No weapon gon’ prosper that’s formin’ against me.” He also thanks his mother for raising him: “Give all the props to my momma ‘cause no matter what, she always protected me (On God).”
J. Cole also shares a raw description of the struggles and hardships that shaped his early years, including (it would seem) the influence of drugs on those around him: “I’m just a product of poverty, full of narcotics to profit off quickly/My family tree got a history of users that struggle with demons.” That context, obviously, isn’t a positive or redemptive one. But J. Cole isn’t glorifying it here, but rather critiquing its damaging influences on his life.
The rapper also says these experiences have traumatized him, specifically the violence (“We don’t participate, aint’ with that squashin’ s—, all we believe in is homicide”) and his father’s failure to raise or guide him (“I blame my pops … ‘cause if he didn’t fail, he could’ve corrected me”).
J. Cole casually references sex and sexual relationships: “You want me money or wanna have sex with me?”. The n-word is used multiple times, as well as the f-word and a few other profanities—vulgarities that undermine a track with some redemptive vibes.
This track is a bit of a mixed bag. Featuring 21 Savage and Morray, the song is full of references to a life filled with traumatic experiences, from poverty and violence, as well as profanity and nods to sexual experiences.
But “my.life” also illustrates how thankful J.Cole is now that he no longer lives in this environment. The rapper can see clearly now how damaging some of his early choices were, as well as the importance of having a loving, correcting father.
Kristin Smith joined the Plugged In team in 2017. Formerly a Spanish and English teacher, Kristin loves reading literature and eating authentic Mexican tacos. She and her husband, Eddy, love raising their children Judah and Selah. Kristin also has a deep affection for coffee, music, her dog (Cali) and cat (Aslan).