Podcast Transcript:


Hip Hop and Rap music are genres that represent and speak up for the black community. It’s a great way for artists to speak up for social justice issues. Many hip hop artists are widely respected for their poetic and musical abilities to raise awareness on issues like racism. For this podcast, We’re going to focus on J. Cole.


Cole’s discography is so rich, extensive and packed with experience, but one song I want to focus on is “Neighbors” from his fourth studio, platinum album “4 Your Eyez Only”.  The album’s goal, J. Cole said, was “to humanize the people that have been villainized in the media” according to the New York Times. These songs embody the stories that J. Cole wants to share with the world, and the sound that this song has, drives music far from where Hip Hop has been moving in recent years.


...“I don’t want no picture with the president

I just wanna talk to the man

Speak for the boys in the bando

And my nigga never walkin’ again

Apologized if I’m harpin’ again

I know these things happen often

But I’m back on the scene

I was lost in a dream as I write this

A teen down in Austin…”


According to the Daily Emerald, an online magazine referenced by Billboard, the album is best summarized as a “track-by-track journey of a black man’s experience of growing up in our nation, from encountering ghetto violence at a young age, suffering inescapable racial prejudices in real life and in the media and dealing with death and mortality.”


Similarly, “Neighbors” highlights the consequences of being a black man in white suburbia. Essentially, the song tells J. Cole’s own story involving racism; specifically the time an entire SWAT team raid his home that resided in an affluent, white area. His neighbors suspected that he possessed marijuana or other illegal drugs in his house. Here’s what J. Cole had to say…



After the SWAT team came and demolished the house, they found no traces of illegal drugs in his home. This just further proves that white people still exercise racist attitudes to blacks based on stereotypes set in place hundreds of years ago.


In response to this event, Cole did what he does best and turned this story into a song. It’s unfortunate that this song resonates with many people who fall victim to injustice with the police.


…“I been buildin’ me a house back home in the south Ma

Won’t believe what it’s costin’

And it’s fit for a king, right?

Or a nigga that could sing

And explain all the pain that it cost him

My sixteen should’ve came with a coffin

Fuck the fame and the fortune, well, maybe not the fortune

But one thing is for sure though, the fame is exhaustin’…


If the song itself isn’t enough to outrage you about the unjust actions of police force, Cole released the surveillance footage from his home and made that the official music video for the song to further prove his point as well.



This next section explains that J. Cole was tired of the spotlight, and decided to move to a quieter area where he can relax with his friends.


…“That’s why I moved away, I needed privacy

Surrounded by the trees and Ivy League

Students that’s recruited highly

Thinkin’ you do you and I do me

Crib has got a big ‘ol backyard

My niggas stand outside and pass cigars

Filled with marijuana, laughin’ hard

Thankful that they friend’s a platinum star

In the driveway there’s no rapper cars

Just some shit to get from back and forth…”


The historical context of this song dates back to as early as black history in America, beginning with slavery, the abolition of slavery, to the Civil Rights movement, and present protests today, mainly the Black Lives Matter movement. Unfortunately, despite the success of the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s, the black community still faces a tremendous burden of racism and injustice every day in ways that are as minor as offensive comments, to as major as losing innocent lives for no reason. This song touches on the extremes racism today and acts as an anthem for social protest by speaking for those who can relate to J. Cole’s story.


The chorus of the song takes a sharp, deeper voice and repeats the same phrase over and over to highlight the redundancies with racial issues that take place within society over and over.


…Okay, the neighbors think I’m sellin’ dope
Hm, I guess the neighbors think I’m sellin’ dope sellin’ dope
The neighbors think I’m, neighbors think I’m
I think the neighbors think I’m sellin’ dope (Don’t follow me, don’t follow me)
I guess the neighbors think I’m sellin’ dope, sellin’ dope
Sellin’ dope, sellin’ dope, sellin’ dope
Well motherfucker, I am…”


“‘Since the slave-trading 1600s, the two elements in African-American life that continuously emulate this marginalized group: singing and fighting,’ according to a poem by Amiri Baraka, a quote from the Rolling Stone. From African chants and sing-songs to civil rights protest anthems to commercial rap and hip hop, music is a prominent part of black history. It’s something that is unequivocally and rightfully theirs.


Fortunately, with the protests that followed the 1960s came great musical icons that used their voices to continuously fight for prosperous change: Nina Simone, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, the list goes on. “Thanks to #BlackLivesMatter, the beautiful struggle against racialized injustice once again matters where rap and hip-hop proper live” (Rolling Stone).


Let’s go back and talk about the beginning of the BLM movement, and how it reached monumental heights of change today. The racial stereotypes that burden the black community create an uproar of fear against them as a whole. Blacks are targets, and police brutality is an issue that blacks face more often than not. The shooting of Trayvon Martin struck an uproar of commotion and anger within the country.  On February 26, 2012, Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old, unarmed, boy was fatally shot by George Zimmerman because, to keep it short, Martin looked like what George Zimmerman thought was a suspicious character.


Here, Cole mentions Trayvon’s name in his second verse. He says that every black person fe els like a candidate for a trayvon kind of fate”, which signifies society’s implementation to favor unjust behaviors to this marginalized group. Why must blacks live in fear that their lives will end the way that Trayvon Martin’s did?


…Some things you can’t escape
Death, taxes, NRA
It’s this society that make
Every nigga feel like a candidate
For a Trayvon kinda fate
Even when your crib sit on a lake
Even when your plaques hang on a wall
Even when the president jam your tape
Took a little break just to annotate
How I feel, damn it’s late
I can’t sleep ’cause I’m paranoid
Black in a white man territory…”


After the shooting of Trayvon Martin, the hashtag Black Lives Matter circulated on Twitter and took the world by storm, striking up one of the biggest movements in modern times. Despite the progression the movement has made, innocent black individuals still fell victim to the police system based on the color of their skin. The names of those lost will never be forgotten as significant within the BLM movement. Michael Brown, Eric Gardner, Laquan McDonald, the list, sadly, goes on and on.


In response to these unfortunate events, J. Cole decided that the best thing for him to do was to just sit back and listen to what the world had to say.


NPR – Microphone Check: (27:11-27:35)

“What can we do? What’s the solution?” And when I’m thinking from a place of anger and bitterness, the answers are so small. They’re so small. They don’t come to me right. But when I’m thinking from a place of — when I know that love is ultimately the answer, the answers are big. Like, big ideas. “Oh, OK. Yeah, that could work. OK, we could do it like –” I don’t know really what the question was, but I’m rambling at this point.


The Black Lives Matter movement favored chanting in the streets to raise awareness for the issues they were fighting for. In one case, the crowds were chanting “We gon’ be alright!” By Kendrick Lamar’s song “Alright”, another protest anthem that led the movements. Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole are both powerful artists, their music sparks a social uproar on their own, but by allowing their music to represent a powerful movement for justice, the music expands on a greater mission beyond enjoyment. The music touches individual’s lives, and represents entire populations’ stories.


This last verse that J. Cole closes with takes a more mellow route…

“…So much for integration

Don’t know what i was thinking

I’m moving back to Southside…”


This verse is almost like a white flag in the battlefield. He harps on the idea that the society is progressing backwards for black lives. It’s as if he’s saying, “Yeah, so much for integration and the civil rights movement. All that means nothing if I still can’t live freely. Guess I’m moving back to southside.”


But is southside really the answer? That just lets the injustice win. By avoiding the problems, not addressing them or challenging them, and hiding away, Cole would be allowing for injustice and racial issues to be prominent among his own community. Luckily his influential role on the black community overpowers any chance of J. Cole giving into the system.


Altogether, J. Cole’s song “Neighbors” single-handedly demonstrates the power, and prejudice of his white counterparts. His song speaks volumes, and by sharing his own story, he allows his vulnerability to pave the road for the future. His goal is to not let the whites win by taking every hit to the face. Fight back. Stand up for what’s right, and put an end to the injustice, because Black Lives Matter.


Thank you.


“…So much for integration

Don’t know what I was thinkin’

I’m moving back to Southside…”