And I ain’t too proud to tell you
That I cry sometime, I cry sometimes about it

“Lost ones” by J. Cole from his album Cole World: The Sideline Story, is the first song by the rapper I really listened to, and now I understand why my siblings can’t get enough of his music. It’s not that the subjects tackled in “Lost ones” are fresh. In all honesty, several rappers like Eminem have talked about being raised by single mothers particularly in the song “Cleaning Out My Closet” (one of my favorites), and others like The Piper from the band Flipsyde and Lecrae have opened about abortion in their songs. J. Cole talks about the same subjects, but what made the song so special is the arrangement. The story in “Lost ones” is narrated in three different points of view: the boy’s perspective after he discovers his girlfriend is pregnant, the girl’s response to the boy’s suggestions, and an omniscient conclusion that gives us insight to the emotional turmoil that comes with unplanned pregnancies.

In the first verse, the boy acknowledges that he got his girlfriend pregnant and that he understands the magnitude of this new responsibility and the many questions raised in the girl’s mind in the lines:

“Baby girl I can’t imagine what it’s like for you,
I got you pregnant now inside there’s a life in you,
I know you wondering if this is going to make me think about wifing you,
like if you had my first child would I spend my whole life with you?”

He proceeds to say that he thought about the situation, and that he feels that none of them is ready for parenthood because they are young, have no house, and that, HE, does not have the money to raise a child. I think this is symbolic of the way most males think they are solely responsible for the financial responsibilities of the household.
The opening lines of the second verse explicitly emphasize this: THE. GIRL.IS. FURIOUS. She does not understand how the boy can unabashedly suggest abortion, as if he has a say in what she does and doesn’t do with her body in the lines:

“Nigger you got the nerve to come up to me talking about abortion”
“This my body nigger so don’t think you finna force shit”.

She curses him numerous times, and goes on to say that he is like all the other dudes (who only want to get physical but want no commitments). As J. cole continues to rap, we hear the girl’s anger receding, and being replaced by some fragile strength where she says she will raise the kid alone just as she was raised by her mother. However, she continues to persuade him through reminding him of their meaningful conversations, and this indicates what she is really feeling. She fears being a young single mother and the judgments that usually come with it, and she wants more than anything for the vicious cycle of absent fathers to end with her.

In the third verse, we get to know what the young couple is thinking. The girl, much more vulnerable, is saddened by the distance that this pregnancy has brought between her and the boyfriend, and the fact that there is no hope for marriage. The boy’s thoughts are much harsher and unforgiving. It is made clear that he had no intention of marrying her. She was just a girl to have fun with. Moreover, his initial fear about his girlfriend’s pregnancy turns into a cold nonchalance. He starts to refer to her as a “Bitch”, wonders if she is lying or if the child is even his. His friends have, perhaps, the most interesting ideas as shown in the lines:

“These hoes be trapping niggers”
“Swear they get pregnant for collateral, it’s like extortion.”

As much as I found this absurd, I could understand why some boys could afford to think this way. Although our society is changing, I think most families (at least the ones I know) still believe marriage is the ultimate achievement for their girls. The way I see it, it is no wonder that some boys think they are so in demand as to be “trapped into marriage”, because somehow our society has given them that privilege.

I have heard tons of stories like this one, but most of them were one sided. J. Cole was not only able to include three different perspectives that elevated the story to a whole new level, but he also captured the complexity of human emotion and society with incredible accuracy in only 4 minutes and 23 seconds. This reading might be morose especially on Valentine’s day(sorry!), but certain things( “Lost ones”) can’t be ignored.

Portia Uwase
Portia Uwase Zuba’s academic interests are Economics, International Affairs, and French.