Great Gifts Are Hard To Come By
The holiday season is in full swing once again and I’m sure you are struggling like everyone else to figure out what the perfect gifts are for your loved ones. Personally, I always struggle the most with my dad — my thoughtfulness usually lends itself to procrastination, followed by the last minute trip with my little brother to Home Depot where we purchase the ever-faithful gift card. Then he can go walk around and play with as many drills and stare at as many 2x4’s as his heart desires (if you can’t tell, I’m not really sure what his infatuation with the place is).
Since I know I’m not the only person who has said problems, I thought it would be helpful be to create a list of potential gifts.
Option 1: J. Cole’s fourth studio album titled, “4 Your Eyez Only”
On December 9th, J. Cole released his fourth studio album to add to his already critically acclaimed discography. From cover to cover, the ten songs paint vivid pictures of Cole’s rise to stardom, dealing with the dark sides of fame, America’s plight with racism and poverty, his family, and more. The poetry is raw and emotional at times, and profoundly insightful at others. Cole’s lyricism is unmatched in the music industry (in my opinion), and this is surely another classic example of the storytelling he has done so well his whole career.
The album is an eye-opening experience and should be listened to by everyone; its clarity and precision takes the listener on a journey that makes them conscious of a world they may have (fortunately, in some instances) never seen before. And at the end of the day, appreciating someone else’s struggle and understanding their point of view is the first step to making the necessary changes our society and culture need to progress in the right direction.
I don’t want to ruin the songs for you -- if you haven’t taken a listen yet -- but here’s a short synopsis of each one in order. Mind you, these summaries are nothing more then snippets.
· For Whom The Bell Tolls: The title of the track comes from a poem written by John Donne: “Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.” Essentially, no man is an island. Mankind is in this together. But how Cole flips this is to say that when people have nowhere left to turn, their actions and lifestyle predictably become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
· Immortal: Our society tends to appreciate great artists more after they’ve passed than when they’re alive. For Cole to become who he wants to be envisioned as, does he have to die to get there?
· Deja Vu: The story of seeing a woman that leaves him breathless, seducing her. Then, eventually leaving her behind to chase his dreams.
· Ville Mentality: About the inevitable need to change his life and mentality, and to separate himself from where he grew up in order to prosper.
· She’s Mine, Pt. 1: A gorgeous slow-jam about falling in love with his wife, his struggles with opening up to her due to his shaky past, and finally realizing that she knows him better than he knows himself.
· Change: “The only real change comes from inside.” Cole realizes the practice what you preach motto in ultimate fashion here.
· Neighbors: The struggle of living in a largely white neighborhood due to their stereotypes based on his, his friends’, and family’s race.
· Foldin Clothes: A song about…folding clothes for his wife. But a simple task has a much deeper meaning.
· She’s Mine, Pt. 2: Another beautiful ballad about parenthood, being there for his daughter, and the new found invigoration he felt for life once he became a parent.
· 4 Your Eyez Only: A profound story of perspective Cole tells to a friend’s daughter on his behalf - after his death. It’s 9 minutes long and the perfect bow on this incredible piece of art.
In all seriousness, go pick up this album and gift it to someone for the holidays. Or get it for yourself. Either way, listen and reflect. You never know how it will affect you…inspiration usually comes from the most unexpected places.
Option 2: A box of Godiva chocolates or something, I don’t know.