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J. Cole is a rapper unafraid of what to say. He has no filter and he’s not afraid of offending the wrong parties because he’s built his prestige out of this precise thing. This extends to the art that serves as an extension of his music, especially in the new video for “Middle Child” that he released today (February 25). It’s a three-minute film that travels in a ton of directions, offering beautiful cinematic looks at mundane scenes and brings the reins in for a couple of important, pressing points. You’ll want to pay attention to this right until the ending credits.
The ominous horn and hi-hat combo immediately kick off as J. Cole cuts an imposing figure in the centre screen, enshrouded in darkness. While he raps, the surrounding scene changes in the background; first there’s a community of people celebrating in what appears to be a church and then the camera darkens, bringing into view a morgue filled with covered corpses and dirt-decorated shoes. The dirt manifests itself in the following two backdrops: a marching band standing on an auburn mound dramatically dancing and J. Cole and friends speeding around dark-orange wetlands in a stained SUV. Dirt has never looked this cool.
It’s what comes after these dusty sequences that creates talking points. Cole’s triumphant demeanour while the camera shows the hollowed heads of conquered rappers is telling. We see three unknown faces, symbols for artists that we all know but are hesitant to say; first, there’s the common rapper appropriately named “Your Favorite Rapper,” followed by another with lime green braids named “This Could Be You,” with the third being “Ask For A Feature.”
The last scene is a seemingly normal grocery-store trip featuring the rapper slowly riding a cart up an aisle. But the camera pans out and, after a quick throwback to the cabin scene featuring a white woman fascinated with a black woman’s hair, we see a meat selection case filled with black body parts on sale. The latest we see that gets scooped up for purchase is the face of the black woman that has become commercialized. J. Cole’s statement comes right as the video closes to reward the viewer with what he likely thinks is really going on in America.
J. Cole’s label imprint with Interscope, Dreamville Records, is currently prepping a new project, Revenge of the Dreamers III. This month, he’s appeared in two video spots so far, most recently as a sultry, dominant wordsmith in Ari Lennox‘s “Shea Butter Baby” and the all-knowing mentor figure in 21 Savage’s “A Lot.”
Take a look at the smart, telling “Middle Child” video above.