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“No such thing as a life that’s better than yours.”

J. Cole is easily regarded as one of hip hop’s greatest artists and lyricists of all time. His work has stood the test of time and each of his projects has built upon each other. Known especially for his writing and decadent flows, his work is unique in that he often speaks of issues that are uncommon in hip hop. 

Cole has often spoken of ego, arrogance and jealousy on the rise to the top, but also family, love and protection. His seminal project, 2014 Forest Hills Drive is still considered his best work of all time. The project was certified triple platinum in May 2019 (selling over 350,000 copies within it’s first week alone), a testament to Cole’s powerful following as he accomplished the feat with absolutely no features on the project. 

The album is a culmination of Cole’s life, from the suburbs of Fayettevile, North Caroline to the eventual top of hip hop’s coveted mountain. The story brings us into the world of our protagonist who is on the verge of accomplishing all of his dreams, making it big in Hollywood and beginning to self-actualize all that he’s ever dreamed of. Throughout the journey Cole realizes the entire dream is smoke and mirrors. 

Though he’s accomplished all he’s ever dreamed of, Cole is still unfulfilled and this leads him on a journey of self-discovery for what’s actually important in life. The project itself is understated, beautiful and a powerful portrait of a young black artist who rose from nothing to achieve everything he ever wanted. At the last moment he turns around in realizing that nothing is valuable without family and community to share in the moments. 

Why J. Cole Created Love Yourz

J Cole
(Getty)

Love Yourz, the closing track from 2014 Forest Hills Drive is a poignant letter to Cole’s community about success, the downfalls of fame and wanting things we don’t have. Gratitude is at the center of all enlightenment. Understanding that you have to be comfortable and secure with what you have, and not obsessed with what others have is key to being present in the moment and finding enjoyment with those around you. 

“No such thing as a life that’s better than yours; no such thing as a life that’s better than yours (love yours),” Cole sings in the opening lines of the track. A simple, yet powerful line that indicates a transformation in Cole and his mindset. Even more powerful is that it’s rare to find a verse that speaks to this in the hip hop community, which is often centered around flexing what you do have over others, and painting aspirational moments within your life. 

“It’s beauty in the struggle, ugliness in the success; hear my words and listen to my signal of distress; I grew up in the city and know sometimes we had less; compared to some of my niggas down the block, man, we were blessed,” he continues. Cole pleads to his community to understand that although he has accomplished something most only dream of, it’s the process that was the true gift and fulfillment. Success is only a consequence of the work, and once you reach that mountaintop you’re likely to find that it was the journey you were so passionate about the entire time. 

“On the road to riches, listen, this is what you’ll find; the good news is, nigga, you came a long way; the bad news is, nigga, you went the wrong way; think being broke was better,” Cole laments at the end of his first verse. He goes on to explain he means no disrespect to those struggling with everyday survival.

He certainly does not mean to say that having no financial security is better than having it, however what he does mean is that those dreams we often build-up in minds are not all that they seem to be. 

It’s easy to look left, and right and pick out all the things we don’t have, but in order to achieve a powerful state of gratitude and happiness, we also need to accept that it’s in our nature to feel unsatisfactory with the present moment. 

Happiness is not a state of being, but a passing emotion. It’s important to be aware of that fact and try and find the positives in every situation we find ourselves in. Undoubtedly, it’s the reason we see millionaires doing their ultimate best to become billionaires and so one. Greed is at the cornerstone of unfulfilled feelings. 

“Livin’ with nothin’ to lose, I hope one day you hear me. Always gon’ be a bigger house somewhere, but n*gga feel me, long as the people in that motherf*cker love you dearly. Always gon’ be a whip that’s better than the one you got, always gon’ be some clothes that’s fresher than the ones you rock; always gon’ be a b*tch that’s badder out there on the tours, but you ain’t never gon’ be happy ’til you love yours.”

Jermaine Cole

Cole finishes his song with an earnest letter to his people. There will always be more elegant houses, faster cars, expensive clothing but none of that will actually help you achieve the happiness we are all inevitably looking for as humans. 

J Cole
(Getty)

Daily Practices of Gratitude 

Happiness is a difficult concept to grasp in all reality. It means so many different things to different people. At the cornerstone of happiness is understanding and acknowledgement. Gratitude for that which we have, and awareness of all the things so many people lack. 

In today’s Instagram-influenced world, it’s hard to avoid seeing all the amazing things people are seemingly up to all the time. Though we know all too well that much of what we see on social media is fake, it still strikes a note within our minds that we aren’t living as lavishly as we want to. 

Being able to catch ourselves, and ground ourselves in these moments are unbelievably important. Being present, and engaging with the environment and people around you will help lead you to a more fulfilling life. You’re no longer spending time, and wasting your life worrying about all that you’re missing out on, instead you’re experiencing life first-hand with that which you do have.