The recent success of J. Cole has been accompanied by something that no one has yet critically analyzed or discussed. The unmentioned conversation isn’t the controversial Fire Squad verse, or his street philanthropy (Fuck Money Spread Love – google it!), or even the historical moves he’s making in music and pop culture in general. The conversation that has existed at the margins of his success surrounds his hair.

You can tell by J. Cole’s afro that he been in the studio whippin up some classics for his next album (@NateSaid)


J. Cole’s hair? Seriously? Someone may ask, “why does it matter what style he’s adorning; it’s just hair?”

True. But with the tensions surrounding Black hair and biracial identity politics, his hair, OUR HAIR, is more than that. Black hair will always be more than just a style.

J. Cole’s hair in essence makes more of a statement than his music or his words. As a biracial individual who has previously worn a close cut fade, the nappy locks are a deviation from the norm. And people have taken to social media to voice their concerns:

“(@jazzyj022) J. Cole’s hair is something serious. He’s cooking up that fire.” baby’s mixed this is unacceptable (@JustCrayshaBro)

Cole need a barber (@TamahDru)

Even fellow comrade Drake commented on his hair on a recent video promoting the 2nd Dollar and a Dream Tour, Earlier That Day. Drake comments, “You growing dreads man?”


While not negative or meant to be derogatory, the comment still exists within a realm of what’s normal and J. Cole has deviated from this norm. (It’s a great video so watch it in its entirety, and the Drake comment is at the 5.07 minute mark .)

J.Cole’s nappy hair is def helping out his whole rugged “for the people” aesthetic rn and yall dnt evn knw it


Again, this tweet while not negative suggests that J. Cole’s hair is a publicity stunt to connect him more with the ‘people’ – Black people. This hints at biracial identity politics that assumes that individuals like J. Cole have to perform their Blackness because somehow it isn’t authentic enough.

There is nothing to prove. People’s definition of Blackness needs to expand. (Need to measure his Blackness – use the WWPD test – What would Police do?)


The previous tweet reveals something additional. Depending on the context, the term nappy can have negative associations. Used in a derogatory manner, the term suggests something that is ugly, unruly, messy, shabby, dirty, or unkempt. But for many Black women who are embracing their naturals, they are reappropriating this term for empowerment.


Because of J. Cole’s biracial identity, it is assumed that he has no business wearing the ‘nappy’ look. This totally negates his identity as a biracial man. Yes he’s Black. Yes he’s White. We may have grown accustomed to his close cut fade, with his so-called ‘good hair,’ but what the tweet reveals is that J. Cole’s biracial grade hair is already socially acceptable so why would he dare deviate from an acceptable norm? Why would you want nappy hair since it’s been mediated to be undesirable or something not to attain, especially if you have alternative options available to you?

It’s funny because the comments essentially are about a Black man wearing a Black style. And they reveal the tension in the Black community of colorism, biracial identity politics, plantation politics, light skinned politics (check out LSN by Cozz, a fellow Dreamville artist).

“He has good hair so why isn’t he wearing it as such” is all these commenters are really saying.


As a society, we’ve been conditioned (literally and symbolically) to see the beauty in straight hair. And although there is growing acceptance of natural hair within the Black community and in mainstream media, there is still a contentious existence for individuals who rock their nappy naturals.

Kishonna Gray is the Director of the Critical Gaming Lab at Eastern Kentucky University. Follow her on Twitter @KishonnaGray

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