“Meditate/Medicate,” the simple change of one letter changes the definition of the word. This, to J. Cole, epitomizes that the difference in spelling between medication and meditation is also a simple change to make in real life, and it’s the grand statement of his latest record, KOD.
There’s a lot of odd choices on the record besides this moment as well. His “Kill Edward” persona seemingly has no real purpose other than it’s his own voice slowed down, he says that he never has features because no one is worthy of being on his album (Only gon’ say this one time, then I’ll dip/Niggas ain’t worthy to be on my shit), and the record’s name, KOD, stands for three different acronyms that are only mentioned in a tweet and never on the record itself, but his statements on “FRIENDS” and “1985” make up the crux of the record.
On KOD, J. Cole goes from social activist to preacher, and like social justice that sounds more preachy than it does inspiring, it’s clear that even though I’m sure Cole means well, he just sounds mean. Like a man confused by the digital age and online dating on “Photograph,” Cole on KOD often sounds more like an old man yelling at the younger generation to get off his lawn and get their act together, but at thirty-three, Cole himself isn’t even old enough to be their parents.
On “FRIENDS,” he means well when he tells people struggling with addiction to meditate instead of self-medicate, but he doesn’t understand that meditation might not work for everyone like it did for him. Cole talks about people close to him that suffered from addiction and depression, such as his mom and close friends, but Cole never mentions any personal struggles with drug addiction. Meditation is a great skill for practicing control, but what might come easy to J. Cole might not come easy to actual drug addicts, who by definition have no control.
Even though Cole says the community frowns upon therapy (There’s all sorts of trauma from drama that children see/Type of shit that normally would call for therapy/But you know just how it go in our community/Keep that shit inside it don’t matter how hard it be), some people can really benefit from therapy, as well the right kind of medication.
Furthermore, even though Cole means “self-medication” when he says “meditate, don’t medicate,” some listeners might hear this record and view his anti-drug message to mean that all drugs are bad, even those that help people manage their depression, anxiety and addiction in a smarter way.
Plus, I’m pretty sure J. Cole is actually against all kinds of medication, as he states in the trailer: “If I turn on the TV right now, it’s not going to take long for there to be an advertisement to pop up that says, ‘Are you feeling down? Have you been having lonely thoughts?’ And then they shove a pill in your face. The first response of any problems is medicate.”
By saying “meditate, don’t medicate,” Cole not only makes a complicated issue seem naïvely simple, but he also discredits every mental health professional and possibly dissuades people in need from something that could truly benefit their mental well-being.
Sure, Jay-Z might have been a little patronizing when he commented on younger rappers saying, “we don’t call that money over here” on 4:44, but coming from Jay-Z, at age 48, it feels more parental. Besides, Jay-Z was talking about financial advice, something he actually knows a lot about, not mental health. Maybe if J. Cole provided examples of his own personal struggle with addiction and didn’t tell everyone on KOD to just try and “meditate” all their pain away, he would have a little more credibility.
What do you think? Drop your thoughts in the comments below.