“A Tale of 2 Cities” Song Review


A Tale of 2 Cities 

J. Cole



In 1985, Jermaine Lamarr Cole, more popularly known as J. Cole, was born inside of an American Army base in West Germany. Cole’s African American father and German Mother meet while Cole’s father was on duty for the Army. Cole’s stay in West Germany was rather short lived and would move to the small town of Fayetteville, North Carolina. Sadly, the land of opportunity brought nothing but bad luck for Cole’s family, as his dad would soon leave them soon after their arrival. Now with just his mom and his brother, he grew up in a small Trailer home, installed with a furnace. Cole began to chase his dreams at a young age.

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As a kid, Cole idolized the famous rappers, Nas, Tupac and Eminem and at the age of 14 was inspired to take start taking rapping seriously. Though he made excellent grades throughout high school, Cole turned down the option of going to College to move to New York City and chase his dreams. Determined to give Jay-Z his mixtape demo, he waited outside of his office for over a day. After being ignored during their first meeting, Jay-Z eventually signed J. Cole to his record company. From here, Cole found much success, releasing multiple studio albums and winning two Grammy Awards for his music.

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The year 2014 turned out to be a success for J. Cole after the release of his most popular album. Named after his old address in North Carolina, 2014 Forest Hill Drive would go on to take to music world by surprise. Winning BET’s “Best Album” award as well as Music Billboards’ best rapper of 2015, J. Cole had officially set his feet in the mainstream music world. The top songs from this album include, “Apparently”,” G.O.M.D.” and “A Tale of Two Cities.” In the first week of the album’s release, 2014 Forest Hill Drive sold over 350,00 copies, solidifying it as J. Cole’s best album yet.


Song Analysis

Cole sings solo in “A Tale of Two Cities” to the rhythm of a rather heavy yet alternating beat. This plays continuously throughout the whole song and plays a huge role in the song’s identity. During the chorus and some other points in the song, a separate bass noise will accompany the beat. At 3:23 the music will begin and it seems as if the song is about to end. However, Cole includes a minute long outro in his song to close things off.

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Cole not only chooses the name “A Tale of Two Cities”, but he also draws up many of the themes from the book, “A Tale of Two Cities” by Charles Dickens.  Like the book, Cole uses his lyrics to tell a story from two different perspectives. The first perspective, which is the song’s first verse, is of a perspective similar to J. Cole as a kid. In the lyrics, “Since a youngin’ always dreamed of getting rich,”, Cole is rapping about a boy who dreams of leaving the poverty stricken life he is in and to become successful. Some of the lines from the first verse are direct instances out of J. Cole’s life. This includes the line ”Picked up the paper, they say Eddie caught a body, I’m convinced anybody is a killer” which refers to when he found out that his best friend had gotten arrested for murder and how he had never expected that from him. In the last line of the verse, Cole raps that “he is trying to write a story, so can I get a glimpse,” in writing about how listening to other rappers and seeing how they have made it gave him his inspiration to be a rapper.

LAS VEGAS, NV - SEPTEMBER 20:  Recording artist J. Cole performs during the iHeartRadio Music Festival at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on September 20, 2013 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images for Clear Channel)

Going into the song’s bridge, Cole uses the old saying “I know that everything that glitters isn’t gold”, to say that he knows things aren’t always as good as they seem, but then questions how you can really know though until you get it. By questioning a widely accepted saying, Cole shows his true passion towards his dream of becoming a famous rapper.

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After the bridge, J. Cole will begin the next verse in the second perspective. This time, the perspective is of another kid, who has the same dream of getting rich and is in the same position as the first perspective, but a different mindset. As seen in the lyrics “Cop some tree in some powder and make it flip,” which is slang for selling drugs such as cocaine and marijuana. The boy in the second verse plans to achieve the same success as the boy in the first verse, but through criminal means. Comparing the two different perspectives is key in analyzing the song, as J. Cole uses this as a way to differentiate one perspective as being driven and essentially good, while the other one as corrupt minded.


Song Hop


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Under the Bridge

By The Red Hot Chili Peppers



Did you know?

In the 90’s, the Red Hot Chili Peppers dominated much of the music scene. As the predominately electronic disco music of the 80’s was on its way out of the door, alternative rock began to form it’s popularity in the next decade. Under the Bridge was released as a single in 1991 in the Album Blood Sex Magik. It was their fifth studio album, however this would be the Chili Peppers first step to becoming the widely renowned band that they have become. Under the Bridge’s release earned the band a spot on the 1992 Lollapalooza Tour, which is accredited for much of their initial success. Previously, from the influence of lead vocalist Anthony Kiedes, the band had been experimenting with a funk and rock hybrid. This unique music style was diverse to say the least, and would not yield a following like the one that was to come. With the release of Under the Bridge and the overall success of Blood Sex Magik, the Chili Peppers transformed into an alternative rock band. Upon it’s releasing, the song would be have a positive reception, staying on the “Billboard Hot 100” list for 26 cumulative weeks, peaking at number 2. Other notable awards include being the “Rolling Stone” 98th greatest song of all time, as well as #54 in MTV’s greatest pop songs since the Beatles.

The first 30 seconds is filled with the song’s signature riff, courtesy of former lead guitarist John Frusciante. This leads to the vocals as Anthony Kiedes starts off with the first verse. Originally a poem of Kiedis that he did not intend on sharing, the song tells a story of deep pain from losing a friend. The lines, such as “sometimes I feel like I don’t have a partner, sometimes I feel like my only friend,” refer to the death of former band member and friend Hillel Slovak in 1990 from a drug overdose. Referring to his hometown of Los Angeles as the “City of Angels”, Kiedis writes about many of the hardships he had during this time, including drug use and the feeling of loneliness. He sings that he “drives on her streets ‘cause she’s my companion” in speaking to how he would drive sometimes just to escape the feeling of being isolated. There is also slight irony in the song, as originally he sings as Los Angeles being a refuge, but also a place of trouble. In the last verse Kiedes admits to doing drugs under a bridge downtown, singing “Under the bridge downtown is where I drew some blood…… Under the bridge downtown I gave my life away.” As Kiedes was originally to embarrassed to share a piece of work this personal to him, the songs great sound and emotional appeal made Under the Bridge arguably one of the greatest songs of it’s genre.