Dear J. Cole, I owe you an apology. My bad, bro.

OPINION: When J. Cole apologized to Kendrick Lamar for dissing him on record, he looked wack — as it turns out, he was a psychic.

J. Cole performs during the 2021 iHeartRadio Music Festival at T-Mobile Arena on September 17, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.

It’s been nearly a month since one Jermaine Lamarr Cole, better known as J. Cole, turned the hip-hop world on its head. After dropping a response record titled “7 Minute Drill” (on a surprise album called “Might Delete Later”) to Kendrick Lamar’s verse on the Metro Boomin and Future record “Like That,” Cole went on stage during his Dreamville Festival on April 7 and apologized to Kendrick and his fans for doing something (recording an arguably very mid-diss) that didn’t feel right in his soul. He recorded the song because that’s what the streets expected; J. Cole is easily one of the best rappers in the game and has spent the better part of his career letting everybody know that they didn’t want any smoke with him. And then came the smoke, and he wafted away in a sincere, genuine fashion, but it seemed … weird. Of all the people to back out of a hip-hop battle, J. Cole would be the last person you’d ever expect to do so. 

The streets were pissed. Annoyed. We felt bamboozled. Hoodwinked. Run amok. How could J. Cole, the most equipped and best-suited for beef of the three, back out of this? And like that? I haven’t been that annoyed by an artist in a long time. And to apologize in such a public fashion on stage and such? It was such an odd and unexpected thing that I think it’s safe to say that most of us didn’t think there was any coming back from that move. It was easily one of the most memorable occasions of my hip-hop life, and I was alive when Tupac and Biggie were murdered. 

And then something happened. Drake released “Push Ups” and “Taylor Made Freestyle.” Fine records, though the AI Tupac and Snoop was a curious choice, and for a second, Drake looked like he was up; he was rapping and calling out the slight Compton MC, and for a split second, everybody was like Drake might still have it. 

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Drake does not still have it. Kendrick Lamar turned into (or had a reason to reveal himself as) an absolutely angry, petty, creative, evil genius and has gone on a murderer’s row barrage of releases (“Euphoria,” “6:16 in LA,” “Meet the Grahams,” and “Not Like Us”) that are almost getting a little too mad. Drake and Kendrick are lobbing criminal allegations at one another, allegations of outside children and the homie got your girl pregnant; there are cultural appropriation claims, pictures of folks’ homes and private photos, etc. It’s gotten messy to the point of getting uncomfortable. Hell, we’ve even reached the point of a shooting outside of Drake’s home in Toronto (the same one that Kendrick put on the cover of the record “Not Like Us”); thankfully, Drake wasn’t harmed but somebody was shot. Does it have ANYTHING to do with this beef between Kendrick and Drake? As of this writing, we don’t know, but we have reached the “anything is possible” portion of the battle and that’s where things get concerning. If we find out it did, will anybody be surprised? Probably not. 

Meanwhile, we haven’t heard from J. Cole in a month, and he has gone from being looked at as soft and corny to being considered one of the most prescient, astute market analyzers of all time. Instead of looking weak, Cole looks like a genius. He’s the smart guy in all of this who assessed the situation, realized he never wanted it in the first place and wisely (and maturely) decided to gracefully bow out. Even “The Apology” doesn’t have the same sting anymore since the words “O-V-Hoe,” pedophile, wife-beater and actual children’s names have been bandied about and thrown in the mix. While Drake’s “Family Matters” record was cool, Kendrick’s “Meet the Grahams” was one of the most disrespectful things I’ve ever heard in my life, and remember, I grew up with Tupac’s “Hit ‘Em Up.” And much like Tupac’s record, Kendrick actually dropped a club-level bop with “Not Like Us” that I actually heard in a club the other day. I mean, I don’t know where this is going, but I feel like J. Cole made the absolute smartest move by deciding he would just stick to his career plan and move in that direction. 

J. Cole, my bad. I felt like you were looking soft out here, and as it turns out, you just knew better. You let us know that your decision to respond wasn’t what you really wanted to do so I’ll take that at face value, but I’m going to assume you also realized that Drake and Kendrick are, for lack of a better word, crazy and drive with no brakes. This beef could easily go on for as long as Kendrick’s anger persists and since it seems genuine, Kendrick might be in this for the long haul. 

Point is, Cole, my bad, bro. You don’t know me — I shot you a peace sign at a show in New York back in like 2010, but I don’t think you saw it. Either way, I apologize for questioning your methods. You were right, fam. You got it. I’ll go back to waiting for “The Fall Off.” 

K. Thanks. Bye. 

Panama Jackson

Panama Jackson is a columnist at theGrio. He writes very Black things, drinks very brown liquors, and is pretty fly for a light guy. His biggest accomplishment to date coincides with his Blackest accomplishment to date in that he received a phone call from Oprah Winfrey after she read one of his pieces (biggest), but he didn’t answer the phone because the caller ID said: “Unknown” (Blackest).

Make sure you check out the Dear Culture podcast every Thursday on theGrio’s Black Podcast Network, where I’ll be hosting some of the Blackest conversations known to humankind. You might not leave the convo with an afro, but you’ll definitely be looking for your Afro Sheen! Listen to Dear Culture on TheGrio’s app; download it here.