Maybe not as absurd as Rick Ross‘ recent date-rape ignorance, but still unsettling the same to the autism community, hip-hop saw another contentious spotlight on an artist over the weekend, as a petition on Change.org hit over 4000 signatures to get J. Cole and Drake to both apologize for a sentiment in the June-realeased “Jodeci (Freestyle)” and change the phrasing of a specific J. Cole verse: [LISTEN]
Woven into a barrage of usual chest-thumping egoisms the genre wouldn’t exist without, it’s a possible shot at Chief Keef‘s low-brow rhymes, but in the process, taps into a frustration that the autistic community is particularly annoyed with, and thus, very much offended by. Petition organizer Anna Kennedy writing, “It’s time we recognised people with autism for the exceptional human beings that they are and make a stand. Give us a Break!”
J. Cole, nobly, acted quick, releasing an eloquent statement of his own on Monday, ending with a straight apology: “To the parents who are fighting through the frustrations that must come with raising a child with severe autism, finding strength and patience that they never knew they had; to the college student with Asperger’s syndrome; to all those overcoming autism, you deserve medals, not disrespect. I hope you accept my sincere apology.”
Meanwhile, Drake issued his own apology shortly thereafter, praising J. Cole and vowing to remove the lyric altogether from the song, Drake calling it “a learning lesson” and asserting that he believes “individuals with autism have brilliant and creative minds, and their gifts should not be disparaged or discounted.”
This is not the first time Cole has been chastised this year for a contentious lyric, having to explain himself on a line on Born Sinner‘s “Villuminati,” in which he slung “faggot” in a particularly vulgar way – “My verbal AK slay faggots/And I don’t mean no disrespect whenever I say ‘faggot,’ OK, faggot/Don’t be so sensitive/If you want to get fucked in the ass.” – assuring that he was “playfully” exercising an “attack” on homophobia.
Again, we all know forever well that hip-hop is no stranger to contention. People are going to get offended, whether over ill-understandings of autism or not. But the internet has changed the velocity of society’s knee-jerk. What kind of petition would exist against N.W.A.‘s “Fuck tha Police,” if it was released today instead of in 1988? And who would be apologizing?
28-year-old J. Cole did make a solid point in the preamble of his statement Monday that he does not “believe that an apology is needed every time someone is offended, especially when that apology is really only for the sake of saving an endorsement or cleaning up bad press.” But in an increasingly mobilizing internet world where a tweet could destroy a career, is it now mandatory to respond to any and all attacks against an artist’s art?