Aight, let’s dive into J. Cole’s “No Role Modelz” from his critically acclaimed 2014 album, ‘2014 Forest Hills Drive’. This joint isn’t just a song, it’s a statement, unpacking the absence of positive role models in today’s culture, especially for the youth growing up in similar environments to Cole’s own experiences in Fayetteville, North Carolina – which he often refers to as “the Ville”. Cole reflects on relationships, fame, and the haunting realization that finding genuine role models can be a struggle.
The track opens with a heartfelt shoutout: “First things first: Rest In Peace Uncle Phil, for real”. Uncle Phil, a character from “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air”, played by the late James Avery, serves as a metaphorical symbol of a strong, positive father figure—a rarity for Cole and many in his community. Then, homie transitions into an introspective vow: “I get my bitch pregnant, I’mma be a better you”, indicating Cole’s desire to break a cycle and be a responsible father, unlike the men he knew growing up.
He drops wisdom about the ostensible glory days of hip-hop, implying that the game’s switched up now, it’s less about bars and more about melodies – hitting a chord with his reference to the difficulty of achieving platinum status without catchy tunes. Even amidst growing popularity, Cole’s saying he’s the same cat from before all the buzz – the dude who wasn’t sweating over record sales.
The hook is a repetitive anthem, flippantly noting “Don’t save her, she don’t wanna be saved” – likely a commentary on the savior complex some men have towards women they see in less favorable circumstances. It’s an emphatic rejection of the idea that these women are looking for a hero, instead suggesting that they are making their own choices, for better or worse.
Cole’s yearning for a “real love” that’s undeniably authentic and profound references the sturdy relationships of famous couples like Will Smith and Jada Pinkett-Smith. In stark contrast, he describes disingenuous women he encounters, probably those drawn to the allure of his celebrity status rather than who he is as a person. Cole’s basically saying, these types – who chase clout over substance – aren’t worth the time.
Then Cole hits us with lines that sample former President George W. Bush’s infamous flubbed quote, flipping it into a street smart mantra: “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, can’t put the blame on you.” This is his hardened stance on trust – if you let someone fool you more than once, that’s on you, not them. By the third time, forget diplomacy, it’s time to take action. And in J. Cole’s world, that action is symbolically represented by “loading the chopper”, a metaphor for preparing for a confrontation.
In a bittersweet reflection, Cole raps about his regrets over women he idolized in his youth, like actresses Lisa Bonet and Nia Long, juxtaposing that admiration with his current disdain for shallow relationships with fame-hungry women from reality TV. The refrain “She shallow, but the pussy deep” is a play on superficiality versus depth, suggesting that while a woman may be shallow in character, the physical connection can be deep – a cynical and arguably misogynistic view on modern romance that’s rife for debate.
Throughout “No Role Modelz”, J. Cole gives us a deep dive into his perspective on fame, love, and the search for genuine connections in a world that often values superficiality. He critiques the lack of substantial role models and the warped values that come with celebrity culture, all while delivering it in a way that slaps. It’s one of those tracks that has layers – you keep coming back, and you keep finding more. Cole doesn’t just spit lines; he drops entire philosophies.