Monday, June 7th, 2021

J. Cole ft. 21 Savage and Morray – My Life

Also featuring like 21 Songs in the Hot 100 at the same time.


Crystal Leww: I cannot believe that I’ve spent ten years of my adult life not subjected to J. Cole’s fake deep bullshit. “My Life” is more of the same from J. Cole, who made this song probably five or six times in the last decade or so and better. The references are updated — Squarespace, Ja Morant — but really what is this doing for anyone besides people who were already fans of J. Cole? 

Rachel Saywitz: This man just compared himself to Rihanna in the age of Rihanna’s internet. Absolutely disrespectful. To think you would even be on her level. I will not have it. Song is fine. 

Jeffrey Brister: Earnest struggle raps get to me in the best way, especially when buoyed by syrupy, soulful hooks. J’s verse is energetic and emotional, filled with detail. 21 Savage doesn’t have the same combustible forward motion, but he fills every beat with syllables and doesn’t flag.

Samson Savill de Jong: I’ve never been entirely on board the J. Cole hype train. Previous projects have contained flashes of the brilliance his fans insist he has, but I’ve never felt it sustained over the course of a whole album. People like me will often point to features and work he’s done over other beats, and argue that the problem with his albums, where Jermaine produces everything and hasn’t had features, is that Cole is too comfortable. So the fact that this album has both features and other producers immediately makes it of interest. This song is a positive sign that it might just have paid off. Cole sounds more focused than I’ve heard him for a while. I like that he never postures as a gangster, and instead talks about the envy he felt of those who made money when they took a route he wouldn’t or couldn’t. 21’s verse is cool, he certainly fits in very well whilst presenting a contrast with the more energetic Cole. I like the hook without really thinking it fits the song, the way the beat drops out for it makes it too disconnected, like they’ve stitched three different parts together rather than one cohesive whole. Still, my expectations are raised for when I get around to actually listening to the album in full, so job done.

Alfred Soto: His talents and accomplishments glimmer like a Supreme Court justice’s resume. He mostly creates his own beats and he inserts shows of compassion. He doesn’t court the tabloid press and he wants listeners to regard him as a musician first. Ten years into a career with no signs of fatigue, J. Cole hasn’t created much compelling music. Morray steals the track, a wan thing reliant on the usual soul samples and the supremely uninspiring declaration “My life is all I have.” 

Ady Thapliyal: The Scorsese choral harmonies of “Gangsta’s Paradise” make a return here, but J. Cole & 21 Savage don’t really bring the drama to match. For a rapper origin story, the lyrics fail to answer what makes J. Cole J. Cole, and instead replay the neorealistic details of hard knocks and big dreams that adorn many a rapper’s press release biography. This could be anyone’s life. 

Nortey Dowuona: Y’know, I was gonna write a big long paragraph about how 21Savage has become the most accessible young’n to these older rap fans who are thrown by the squawking and chirping and shrieking that more complex rappers in his generation do and has blended that with a growing maturity, how Morray is one of the rap worlds best rappers-turnt-sangas and deffo should’ve capped this off with a great verse, that the heavy, succulent drums under this warm flip of… “The Life” by Styles and Pharoahe, done by THE Jake One and Wu10 is some of the best beat work I’ve heard this year – but well…TOP OF THE MORNING.

Jacob Sujin Kuppermann: 21 Savage continues to expand his emotive and lyrical range, but everyone else here seems stuck in caricature mode — Morray’s soul singer pastiche sounds silly in the face of the actual soul sample, and J. Cole is even worse. His shift from bemused mutters to hyped-up yells is utterly devoid of energy, a predictable move that too-big-to-fail rappers (really just him, Kendrick Lamar, and Drake at this point) move towards because it conveys range without really requiring it. It’s big box conscious rap for nobody’s sake, a song with no particular message but the vibe of deep import.

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One Response to “J. Cole ft. 21 Savage and Morray – My Life”

  1. a TRAVESTY (or a sign of changing times?) that this scored above “a lot”

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