The Amazing Blandness of J. Cole

J. Cole is boring. And that's a good thing.

J. Cole
J. Cole. © Henry Adaso/

J. Cole is boring. I learned this while talking to a friend at a party a couple years ago.

Upon mentioning Cole as a rapping human I enjoy listening to from time to time, she contorted her lips sideways and shook her head. "That guy is just, I don't know...boring," she said. "I just can't get into his music at all."

I heard the record screech to a halt in my head. I briefly considered explaining why I like Cole's music. But I quickly realized how defensive I was about to sound. My lips stayed shut.

An awkward silence ensued. My friend excused herself for a bathroom break.

J. Cole is boring. In an industry of colorful personalities, Cole seems like a shade of gray. For most rappers, such a tag would represent a death knell. It's a huge insult in an industry where star quality is everything. 

He raps about wanting to be a good guy. He says it's okay to have a "Crooked Smile." He tells his fans to believe in themselves. He preaches the value of self worth. How banal.

He vlogs about his fondness for Krispy Kreme donuts. He raps about his humble roots. He dotes on his mother. 

"God bless the idols / May they never be your rivals."

He publicly pays homage to his heroes.

When Bun B was sourcing beats for Trill OG, J. Cole sent him a beat and a verse for a song titled it "Bun B for President."

Cole saw it as an opportunity to tip his hat to the UGK veteran. "Below that Mason Dixon my residence, Dirty South confederate/Aye we should hold elections, I say Bun B for president, he represent them real ni--as," he rapped.

And when he comes up short, he makes songs about letting his idols down.

He's humble about his success. He doesn't flash his wealth. Instead, he portrays himself as a Regular Guy.

The only blotch on his record is a night in jail for riding dirty. He's won the hearts of many by shying away from trouble—on and off wax.

He has the lyrical chops but rarely battles his peers. He hasn't allowed himself to be dragged into a messy feud. Not even when Diggy Simmons lobbed an easy alley-oop his way.

"How you look up to me when I look up to you? You about to get a degree I’ma be stuck with two choices." 

J. Cole's appreciation for intellectual pursuits compounds his blandness. Cole went to New York's St. John's University on an academic scholarship. He graduated Magna cum Laude with a major in Communication and a minor in Business. 

Whether we realize it or not, Cole's perceived blandness and his desire to help others in pursuit of academic excellence are not unconnected.

Take the story of teenage fan Cierra Bosarge, for instance. Bosarge wrote to Cole in 2013 about how he inspires her to strive for success. She was having a hard time in school. Cole's music helped  her persevere.

Cole replied that he would attend the high schooler's graduation if she hung in there and secured an admission to a four-year college. Sure enough, she did. Sure enough, Cole kept his word. 

No matter how you feel about Cole's music, you have to admire his humanity. I wish more rappers were as "boring" as J. Cole.

The youth look up to celebrities. How many of high schoolers would feel motivated to strive for more if they knew their favorite rapper was rooting for them?

"It's funny, but it's sad," Cole once told Noisey of his reputation as a boring rapper. "Everybody has their own style of music that they like. I could never let that affect me in the way I make music," he explained. "The people who like Soul Plane are probably gonna think Shawshank Redemption is boring. It's not the end of the world."

Do you find J. Cole boring? Why? Why not?