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Erik Whittlesey
Professor Malvin
English 103
13 October 2015
The Never Ending Cycle
As the inner cities of the United States of America grow further into moral and economic
debt, many sociologists look for answers as to why many predominantly African American
communities continue to fit the mold for worsening situations in these low income areas.
Jermaine Lamarr Cole, one of hip hops best modern lyricists, has come from an area as described
above. In many of his raps, he tells the story of his upbringing and the surrounding socioeconomic conditions. J. Cole was born and raised in Fayetteville, North Carolina, an area that is
predominantly African American and poverty stricken. A rap that really brings these conditions
to light is 03 Adolesence. In the song he writes about selling drugs, gang violence, and his
poverty stricken upbringing. Many sociologists will blame this dire and chronically violent
atmosphere on factors such as gang violence, lack of financial government aid, or low
educational standards. Many of these factors, do in fact, contribute to the worsening state in the
inner cities of the United States; much of the turmoil arising in these communities can in one
way or another be linked to the usage and distribution of illegal substances. When analyzing the
lyrics to 03 Adolesence through a socio-economic lens, the listener will become aware of these
poor economic conditions, drug trafficking, and poor family conditions within these
The socio economic problems hovering over communities such as the one J. Cole grew
up in all stem from the poverty stricken conditions these kids are born in to. All these kids are

born wishing they had better things or a better life. This is apparent in the beginning of 03
Adolesence when J. Cole writes, I grew up, a fuckin' screw up. Tie my shoe up, wish they was
newer Damn, need somethin' newer. In love with the baddest girl in the city, I wish I knew her
I wish I weren't so shy, I wish I was a bit more fly. He is talking about, how as a kid, he felt
insecure about not having nice things because all of the most appealing girls in his town are
attracted to the kids who have the nice things. This makes sense as the girls in these type of
communities do not come from much money, so the most appealing aspect in a partner, apart
from their looks, is the type of money a man has or comes from. This insecurity, not only with J
Cole, will push many men of the community to obtain nicer and better things. They will go to
almost any length to get it. Born into a town culture of organized gangs and drugs that make
significant amounts of money illegally attract adolescents with these insecurities, continuing a
never ending cycle of gang violence and crime within these communities.
The factors contributing to the worsening of inner cities such as gang violence are
directly correlated to substance abuse and distribution. In, 03 Adolesence, J Cole writes, I
always did shit the hard way, my n***** slangin' in the hallway. Burnt CD's and trees like this
was Broadway. Times Square, kept the dimes there in the locker Some Reggie Miller With more
brown hairs than Chewbaca. Through these lyrics, he describes that he had to work for his
money the hard way, but all those around him turned to selling drugs and illegal items in order to
make their money. The primary source of income in organized crime, aside from prostitution and
intimidation of local business owners, is drug trafficking. Many gangs will distribute various
types of substances such as marijuana, cocaine, crack cocaine, PCP, crystal methamphetamine,
and heroin. Jeffrey Fagan, a Rutgers University professor, writes, Involvement in cocaine,
opiates, and PCP occurred among both violent and non-violent gangs with different involvement

in drugs. A high percentage of crimes committed in the United States every single day are
related to drug trafficking. Living in a community that is built on the foundation of drug
trafficking leads to murders, robberies, and innocent people being hurt. Not only does the selling
of these substances cause violence, but the abuse of these substances is directly linked. The high
of many substances such as cocaine, crack cocaine, crystal methamphetamine, and PCP cause
individuals to become easily agitated and aggressive. As many people living in these
communities are already aggressive and violent due to their already violent surroundings and
most likely impoverished upbringing, substance abuse will only further these emotional
reactions, which will in the end, lead to more crime. Not only does the high of these substances
cause violence and crime, but also withdrawal. Many substance abusers that are experiencing
and going through symptoms of withdrawal will often go to extreme measures to acquire money
that will fuel their habits. These measures range from prostitution to robbery and even murder.
Those are the factors contributing to the worsening of inner city schools and surroundings.
Drug trafficking plays a major role in the decline of socio economic status of these
communities. The effects of drug trafficking on the economy of these inner cities is as such:
when the distribution of illegal drugs is the most lucrative form of business and an individual has
no training whatsoever in any other sort of field, they are left no option but to sell drugs in order
to support their family. J Cole writes, I'm bout to be stuck with two choices: Either graduate to
weight or sell a number two. For what? A hundred bucks or two a week? Do you think that you
would know what to do if you was me? Through these lyrics he shows the options that are
available to the majority of African Americans living in poverty stricken neighborhoods. David
Matza, in his article Delinquency and Drift, writes, Modern sociological theories of
delinquency stress the effects of social class, ethnic affiliation, family, and neighborhood,

(Matza 4). The majority of the people living in these type of areas are not properly educated
which leaves them with the option to work minimum wage jobs. This causes them to either live
pay check to pay check in the community or turn to selling illegal items to live higher end in the
same community. Low educational standards are a rising issue in impoverished areas in the
United States. Many teachers are not able to relate to the kids they teach and therefore are not
able to break through and be a positive influence in these childrens lives. It takes a special type
of teacher with similar experiences to those they teach or at least an empathetic understanding.
According to Polite, a writer/editor of African American Males in School and Society.., he states,
that African American males prefer teachers who are strict and caring-personally supportive, but
insistent that their students perform academically. Until better teachers are hired, graduation
rates and the number of kids moving on to college will stay at a stalemate in these communities.
After analyzing J Coles lyrics of 03 Adolesence, through a socio-economic lens, the
listener will become aware of these poor economic conditions, drug trafficking and poor family
conditions within these communities. The poor economic conditions lead to gang violence and
organized drug trafficking, which therefore lead to an endless cycle of adolescence getting
sucked in to the life style. However, all the cases mentioned above are not for each individual,
but, for the majority. There are so many factors in these type of neighborhoods that contribute to
generations of poverty, but looking through J. Coles music with a socio economic lens will lead
one to see the light of what goes on in these communities.

Work Cited
Fagan, Jeffrey. "Social Organization of Drug Use and Drug Dealing among Urban Gangs, The.
Criminology 27 (1989): 633.
Matza, David. Delinquency and drift. Transaction Publishers, 1964.
Polite, Vernon C., and James Earl Davis, eds. African American males in school and society:
Practices and policies for effective education. Teachers College Press, 1999.

Note: Couldnt indent the bottom lines of each source for some reason.