J. Cole meditates on oppression, meeting with President Barack Obama and the dangers of revolution in a dense new track, “High for Hours,” released on Martin Luther King Day.
Produced by Cam O’bi and Elite, “High for Hours” boasts a simple soul-tinged beat. In the first verse, Cole reflects on American hypocrisy as it pertains to the religious justification for slavery, the celebrations surrounding the death of Osama Bin Laden and police brutality.
The North Carolina MC confronts the State itself, recalling his meeting with Obama during which he asked the President why he hasn’t enacted more radical change to help African-American communities. Taking a few creative liberties with Obama’s response, Cole spits, “I got the vibe he was sincere and that the brother cared/ But dog, you in the chair, what’s the hold up?/ He said, ‘There’s things that I wanna fix/ But you know this shit, nigga: politics./ Don’t stop fighting and don’t stop believing/ You can make the world better for your kids before you leave it.'”
In the song’s final verse, Cole considers what that fight looks like, but the rapper stops short of calling for revolution. Instead, he suggests that the complete overthrow of power inevitably leads to the oppressed becoming the new oppressors. “What good is taking over,” Cole says towards the end of the song. “When we know what you gon’ do?/ The only real revolution happens right inside of you.”
“High for Hours” follows J. Cole’s latest album, 4 Your Eyez Only, which was released in December.