Embracing contradictions and wearing ruffled purple gowns
North Carolina-born rapper J. Cole, the first artist to sign to Jay Z's Roc Nation, likes to play around with notions of the sacred and the profane. On “Window Pain,” from Cole's most recent album, K.O.D., the chorus kicks off like something from Chance the Rapper's Coloring Book. “I put my hand to the sky, I sing/Grateful for the blessings you bring,” he sings, then a few bars later starts rapping lines like, “All I ever wanted was to hear them bitches holler back,” and, “All I wanna do is kill the man that made my mama cry.”
J. Cole seems quite comfortable with contradictions. The drug-soaked K.O.D., which debuted at No. 1 on the charts when it was released earlier this year (on 4/20, naturally), simultaneously revels in the escape drugs and alcohol provide while also warning against the ravages of addiction and the violence of drug-corner culture. It can make for a whiplash-inducing listening experience at times, but for the most part J. Cole pulls it off.
Eccentric, inscrutable opener Young Thug recently nabbed his first No. 1 single with his guest spot on Camila Cabello's “Havana,” and while the Atlanta rapper's own catalog isn't as instantly catchy, it's far more interesting (albeit often unintelligible) compared to “Havana.” Thug is also a fashion icon with a taste for the avant-garde; on 2016 album JEFFERY, the rapper graced the cover in a purple gown with ruffles. (Safe bet)