J. Cole vs. Festival Culture | Music Briefs | Indy Week

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J. Cole vs. Festival Culture

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[Ed. note: The Dreamville Festival, which was scheduled for Saturday, was canceled because of weather concerns shortly before press time. It has not been rescheduled yet.]

"Power, greed, money, molly, weed, percs, xannys, lean, fame." At the end of "KOD," the title track on J. Cole's last album, the rapper rattles off nine words linked to addiction. Leaning heavily on the literal, five of them are drugs that have been put on a pedestal these past few years, especially within popular music. And detrimentally so. Opioids (Percocet, Fentanyl, codeine), Benzodiazepines (Xanax, Valium), and woozy intoxicants like lean have found a home in the lyrics of today's biggest acts, including Migos, Future, Lil Peep, and Mac Miller, who died at twenty-six just a week ago of a suspected overdose.

Five months after Lil Peep's passing, although not because of it, Cole vented via KOD, an album of finger-wagging at those who indulge in and glorify potentially harmful vices. Fittingly, the LP's acronym has three parallel meanings: Kill Our Demons, King Overdosed, and Kids On Drugs.

However, it's no secret that festival grounds are playgrounds for potential substance abuse. Coachella and Bonnaroo, two of the largest U.S. fests, both reported drug-related deaths within the past five years. Security teams wand attendees before entry, check bags, and pat down pockets, but with an average of tens of thousands of attendees, vices slip through the search. At Dreamville, the outcome might be the same, and the irony of the moment is undeniable.

While Cole's on-wax PSA was dubbed the voice of reason (although, not without rap-peer pushback), will KOD's message actually make its way through the smog of a high, especially for his homegrown fans? Will this young crowd, a sea of the same people he hopes to steer in the right direction, separate being fans of his work from being fans of his words? —Stacy-Ann Ellis

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