J. Cole, Success & the Ability to Capture Inspiration When It Strikes
"I wrote six songs that weekend."
Maybe that's why J. Cole is so successful.
Newspapers are functioning on an old paradigm. Wherein PR people pitch stories and what ends up appearing in the Arts section is hype. There's no news there. It's all in the other sections—National, Business and Sports. If I want the facts, I can go to the internet. I'm looking for the spin, someone to ferret through the detritus and come up with the jewels. But while racing through Saturday's New York Times Arts section quickly so Felice could do the puzzle—her weekend addiction—I got hooked on a story about J. Cole, which was hype for his new HBO special this past weekend.
I read it because I know Cole's success more than his music. I thought there might be some nuggets there.
And there were.
The interview covers how he retreated from fame to North Carolina, tried to become the opposite of the character so many desire, with wine, women, song and automobiles. And they talk about him playing hoops uninterrupted. But the cops raided his abode. Cole posits they were looking for drugs. He believes a neighbor tipped them. Even though essentially nothing was found.
That's when Cole wrote the six songs.
All of Cole's albums have gone Platinum, maybe this is why?
Art is best when based on inspiration. Talk to anybody who creates. It's when the heavens open, the lightning bolt comes down and you're zapped, you've got something to say. But that's not the way it's been for oh-so-long. All the music today is massaged. That's what made music a hotter medium than movies or TV. It's why Warner built HBO, never mind the Warner cable system. Because when done right music captures the zeitgeist.
Keith Richards conjured the riff to "Satisfaction" in a dream. Some of the greatest songs in history were written in fifteen minutes. And the people can tell—listeners know—there's some indescribable nugget encased that they just can't resist, that they must get closer to. Which the digital/internet age should foster. Not only are the means of production cheap, they're at your fingertips 24/7, as is distribution. There are no hurdles, it's only our minds that our restricting us.
So get out and live, raise your antenna. When you least expect it, when you think you're just going about your business, you will be inspired.
And it's a solo event, kinda like The Beatles. Most of their songs were not joint affairs, McCartney or Lennon just tweaked what their partner came up with. There's nothing wrong with tweaks, just don't smooth the rough edges and don't eliminate what hooks the people to begin with.
And we are just people. We're in search of humanity. When you channel truth we resonate and feel connected in a lonely world. That's why we love our musical stars, their ability to do this.
Reprinted with permission from The Lefsetz Letter, subscribe via Lefsetz.com.