Cole World: How hard does Cole rep NC?


Hey all; hope you’ve been well,

Today’s hip hop inspired post is the result of an off-topic, yet interesting, conversation I had with one of my students during class. We had broken up into groups and they were analyzing the rhetoric in Al Pacino’s “Inch By Inch” speech. Several students were making up a test and there were about four groups of five students each.

In a brief moment of “off-topicness” two of my girls began quoting Meek Mill’s “Intro” (“Hold Up Wait A Minute; Y’all thought I was finished?”) to which I responded, you’re not Philly enough to quote Meek in this class. The kids were slightly baffled (but I spent too much time in Philly for these lil’ homestead jawns to be quoting Meek Mill in my class), and one responded, so I can’t quote J. Cole since I’m not from NC?

Eventually, that comment turned into a micro-conversation about how J. Cole, especially now, hasn’t really put NC on his back. While he is unapologetic about where he’s from, few would consider him an NC rapper…he’s definitely more of a rapper from NC.

The difference is major though it’s expressed through minor nuance. My student’s first defense of Cole was how much he shouts out the Ville. His label is called Dreamville Records. He often shouts out Fayetnam. He’s definitely from NC. But that’s about it. Literally that’s about it.

J. Cole’s recipe for success wasn’t to put his city on his back. Nor does he really put his city on the map. J. Cole’s ethos throughout his entire discography can be boiled down to, I’m the best that my city has to offer by proxy, because he’s the best in the game. (Paraphrasing his ethos). You can trace his progression through some songs where he discusses ripping the older kids in freestyles at a younger age. But in order to make it, he felt the need to leave his city. He needed opportunity, and the southern city Fayetnam just didn’t have it.

His traction, first with college students, then to most thirteen to thirty-year-olds, stems from a passion to make it. He’s about to blow up. He’s got to make it. No matter what. Even if that means leaving the sound that your state began building up in the late 90s and early 00s. Even if that means looking within and focusing on the universal traumas of insecurity, relationship issues, perfectionism, money, and power. None of that is explicitly shaded in a regional brush.

Cole’s occasional shout out to his hometown and his roots is much like Big Sean’s. Yes, he’s from the D, but the D doesn’t dominate or provide a stable musical foundation for his flow, his subject matter, or his persona. Cole is much the same way. Cole can get off on a beat, but he’s not reaching back into the southern canon or presenting those southern vibes. He was raised in NC yes, but Cole became a man in NYC, the melting pot of melting pots. And not racially, but regionally.

Going to college in a city very far removed from your hometown will change the way you reflect on your world and create. While, without a doubt, Cole is a rapper from NC, his swagger and his worldview has been shaped by his travels and extended stays elsewhere.

Much like Jay Electronica, Cole’s southern accent (he claims he had one) vanished after traveling and spending extended time in a variety of locales around a variety of people. He’s a rapper from NC. He’s not an NC rapper. And that’s not a bad thing.

Cole’s strength is in his ability to come off as relatable to so many: He’s biracial, an athlete, a thinker, a rapper, a producer, he “smashes hos” yet is seeking a stable relationship, he’s been poor, he’s been middle class, he went to college, he’s from the hood, etc. Without that regionalism, Cole is even more of an every person’s rapper. He may not read as NC as Meek reads as Philly, or Kendrick reads as Compton, but for him, that is in fact a strength. Not a weakness.

Gotta thank my student for pushing back. Lol. Made me think about this quite a bit.



Scares and Support


(My nearly monthly post…I’m a phenomenal blogger)

Now that I’ve been investing in my 170+ students for a little over two months now, I’m beginning to really understand the current limits of my teaching as mentorship philosophy.

First, I’m not them. Even though four of my six classes are AP classes, our minds are not equal. That isn’t meant to be elitist at all. In fact, it’s a testament to my mother’s vision and God’s favor that I was able to be pushed in the “right” areas throughout my life.

I’ve always been blessed with top notch English teachers at the right time in my life. My third/fourth/(part of second) grade teacher really taught me how to write in a way that prepared me to succeed in middle school. My seventh-grade English teacher did much the same thing. And my AP English teacher and my 10th grade English teacher really helped me to develop into a writer that could wow people at times. However, that’s not the limit of me not being them.

Without a doubt, one thing I can say is that I have a love for language that extends beyond what the average kid finds interesting. Yes, I fully read every summer reading book I was assigned, no matter how difficult, but I was also feasting on the bible from age 6 or 7. I read almost anything I could put my hands on.

That love for words and ideas is something that I don’t really see in many of my students, and it shows in some of their deficiencies.

Second, many of my kids really WANT a teacher. Someone who is so definitively above them that they feel inspired to reach up or afraid not to.  And without a doubt, you don’t become a real teacher in three months. I went to a town hall this past weekend and all the panelists agreed: It takes 5 years for most good teachers to reach their potential. I’m not planning on being in high school that long.

The two come together in the most interesting ways. Since I’m not them, some of their pain doesn’t register to me. It’s hard for me to read them when they’re hurting. I can’t always make the connections when they’re presented. A senior was killed by a stray bullet this past weekend, and I was unable to be the mentoring and understanding teacher because I didn’t fully understand the situation. It took me all day to really give some sort of a proper outlet for one of my grieving students. That’s no bueno. I had students in every single period who were and are still hurting.

Today I wasn’t able to be the firm teacher who understood my administration and who put the lessons above the threats of rumors. Being in the dark is hard for me because I’m very used to being included at least on a marginal level. However, if I was more experienced I would have known that unless otherwise noted, you follow the plan. I can’t be so quick to abort lessons that could work with more vigor and tenacity.

I also need to be more willing to manage up. There are people that can help me. I’m just afraid of having my failure be confirmed (Ivy trait). At the end of the day, if I really want to grow I’m going to have to balance my own reflections, which take time but make major impact, with other people’s observations, which could save time. Why re-invent the wheel when you could adjust it to fit your wagon right?

GOALS. I’ll try and write some more soon.



Life Gives You…Lots


Hi all, it’s been too long;

My life at school has been utterly eye-opening. All of my faults seemed to become magnified as I handle dealing with a large number of different parents and children and teachers and principals and county representatives. Where my AP classes seem to be getting more and more content practice, my regular classes are getting less and less.

To remedy that, life has given me help. I just need to be less afraid to get the real truth from those around me.

As expected, I’m terrible at classroom management, not because I am (in some cases I am), but because I’m very different. Part of any job is learning how to meet people’s expectations while maintaining your own sense of self. I need to find a way to be my life loving, caring, and invested self while also appropriately punishing students who do not follow instructions or that are continuously off task.

Easier said than done, but that’s a reality in life.

In the meantime, I’m going to continue doing what I do best and spending my time wisely. Part of that means really doing my homework and thinking through every part of my lesson. That also means doing the deep reading several times before I begin teaching a lesson (something that I’ve been neglecting and it shows). I know that I’m my absolute best when I know my stuff, but I can’t know my stuff unless I do my homework.

I’m also going to show my students through example that improvement is always possible. I may not be the tightest, strictest, or most talented teacher, but I will be the most tenacious. I’ll be there to teach if I’m at 40, 50, or 100. It doesn’t matter, I’m going to always put in the effort.

Case in point: I was in a car accident two weeks ago on my way to school. As a result, my car was (officially announced yesterday) totaled and I missed most of my first period. I came to school ready to teach the other three to the best of my ability. Nothing’s going to hold me back.

Realistically, I may not be cut out for teaching in the long run. I’m my best self when I can develop individual relationships and the classroom isn’t always the best place for that. However, until my commitment is over I won’t let those ideas or thoughts hold me back. I’ve got to give it my all and make changes day by day to ensure that my students get the best me that there is to get each and every day.

I’ll be praying for success!