Rap is all about bravado. “I fucked these many hoes; I sold this much yay; I got shot nine times.” But when a song like J Cole‘s Let Nas Down off his Born Sinner CD comes out, you can’t help but relate to someone trying to live up to their idols and failing but continuing to try.
What makes this song special is not just the sick beat that samples the great Fela Kuti song Gentleman but the straightforward honesty of what J Cole’s essentially saying: “I’m unsure. I’m afraid I won’t be good enough. I might not make it.” These are worries I imagine every artist has. But for some, these feelings of doubt linger longer than expected and for others they never go away.
I haven’t had a real job in six months. That’s a really long time. When I left my last job, I felt pretty confident something would turn up. I’ve had about 10 interviews for jobs that I really wanted and even more for jobs that I decided I didn’t really want. But still I have nothing. It’s embarrassing. My former co-workers and my boss were so sure I would get something great. They seemed to think I was really talented. They couldn’t wait to find out where I would end up. Now I dodge their texts and emails because I don’t want to admit I’ve failed.
I let Nas down, I got no one to blame, I’m ashamed I let Nas down
But this is God’s plan, you could never understand, fuck it
It’s depressing for sure. Embarrassing. Shameful. Stupid. But what else can I do except keep trying? I want to be a corporate communications type like them but it seems like that life will not find me. I can’t do anything except write and I often wonder if I can even do that good enough.
I couldn’t help but think that maybe I had made a mistake
I mean, you made “You Owe Me” dog, I thought that you could relate
But while I shot up the charts, you mean tellin’ me
That I was not up to par, when I followed my heart
I know I’m not the best writer. I don’t have the discipline to write the great Canadian novel. I don’t have the drive to pitch stories to magazines everyday. I don’t have the confidence to sit down with marketing honchos and sell my wordsmithing abilities. But I have a voice and I believe it connects to some people, somewhere.
Me, I study the shows, the fans, study their hearts
I had a feelin’ I was killin’, and this music we were spillin’ out
Would change lives forever, fuck the label, put it out