“On the Street” by J-Hope & J. Cole
Besides for the fact that both of their monikers begin with a J followed by a one-syllable, four-letter word, there really isn’t much similarity per se between J-Hope and J. Cole besides for them being hip-hop based contemporaries in the music game. J-Hope’s first name is Jung, while J. Cole’s is Jermaine, thus explaining said Js.
J-Hope is from South Korea and of course made a name for himself as a member of BTS, the most-popular music act of the late 2010s. Meanwhile J. Cole, who hails from North Carolina, is about a decade older and came up as a soloist before establishing his own successful label, Dreamville Records.
BTS (AND J-HOPE), VERIFIED J. COLE FANS
This may seem like an unorthodox collaboration, but in actuality BTS’s fandom has long been aware that the group are akin to J. Cole fans. That is to say they recorded their own take Cole’s track “Born Sinner” (which isn’t even a single) way back when it was first released in 2013.
The BTS tune which samples that song is known as “Born Singer”, in which J-Hope drops a solo verse, and it eventually saw the official light of day itself in 2022. Cole of course had to permit said issuance, which he did, and J-Hope’s bandmate Suga did publicly express thanks for said allowance.
2022 also marked the year that Hope and Cole actually met in person, at Lollapalooza, with the two of them hooking up going on to become a notable event as far as social media is concerned. And later down the line it was more overtly revealed that Cole has been one of Hope’s inspirations throughout the years.
INTERESTING TIDBITS ABOUT “ON THE STREET”
“On the Street” was released on 3 March 2023, i.e. a couple of days before the writing of this post. So it doesn’t yet have a standard chart history to speak of yet. However, the track did quickly earn the distinction of being declared “this week’s favorite new music” according to Billboard polls.
And of course it instantly proved popular on the likes of iTunes and Spotify, i.e. online music-based platforms where BTS is known to dominate. For instance, as far as iTunes goes, “On the Street” reportedly reached number one “in at least 80 different regions”. Furthermore, its music video, as directed by Yong Seok Choi, proved to be the top-trending clip on YouTube.
This track is a non-album single, but it is Big Hit Entertainment, the label behind BTS, who is responsible for its release. And besides for J-Hope and J. Cole, the only other credited writer of the song is its producer, Pdogg. Just like Hope, Pdogg is also South Korean and a regular BTS collaborator.
J-HOPE ENLISTING IN THE MILITARY
Also interesting to note is that by the looks of things, J-Hope will soon be enlisting in the South Korean military. It is actually mandatory in his homeland for “every young healthy South Korean” male to “serve between 18 and 22 months” in the military.
Of course BTS are global superstars, and they’re basically a national treasure as far as South Korea is concerned. However, after some debate, they were not allowed to skip conscription – which must be performed once men turn 28 years old. The government allowed them to delay signing up until each member respectively reached the age of 30.
Jin, J-Hope’s eldest bandmate, capitalized on that offer and began his service last December, which was the same month he turned 30. In doing so, he likewise became the first member of BTS to join the military.
Meanwhile, J-Hope won’t become 30 until early 2024. But he more recently decided that he’d rather not postpone his enlistment and has filed paperwork accordingly. Relatedly, it has been reported that his message contained in “On the Street” is meant to serve as “a kind of goodbye” to his fans before he disappears from the music scene for about the next two years.
AND FINALLY, THE LYRICS OF “ON THE STREET”
Only the first verse of this song, as rendered by J-Hope, is partially in Korean. The Google translation of said passage leaves a bit to be desired. But going back to what’s been stated earlier about this being a message to J-Hope’s fans, in addition to our own extensive experience analyzing BTS songs, said verse does read, most simply interpreted, as being affectionately inspirational, which is in fact the Bangtan Boys’ established norm.
Indeed, the chorus goes on to indicate that J-Hope’s aspirations and disposition are not for his sole benefit but rather efforts he “always” makes on behalf of “us”.
“Every time I run
Every time I move
As always, for us”
In this particular case, all things considered, he would not be speaking exclusively of A.R.M.Y., aka BTS’s fandom, which is one of the most notable in the world. But the vocalist is letting it be known that grinding “on the street” is to the benefit of all involved, i.e. himself and the audience alike, if you will.
“Every time I love
Every time I hope
As always, for us (On the street, I’m still)”
Coming off like that, as if your goal as a musician is to also edify your fans, isn’t something you’re likely to hear a mainstream American rapper say. But out of all of the A list rappers stateside, J. Cole is known as being the most intellectual basically. So whereas he doesn’t adopt the same kind of message as J-Hope, he does use a good portion of his verse to firmly point to his belief in God.
Later on, Cole does engage in a bit of braggadocio, as to be more expected from a US rapper, though along the lines of referring to his lyrical skills and the notion that he is getting “stronger” as time progresses.
So going a bit out on a limb, one way of interpreting J-Cole’s verse is as alluding to his own reasons for being “on the street”. In other words, his career is fueled by the conviction, so to speak, that the Most High actually destined him to be a rap star.
So we will conclude by saying that this is an ambitious collaboration. South Korean rappers have of course been heavily influenced by their American counterparts, as J-Hope has been by J. Cole. But you will notice for instance that the former has the word “hope” as part of his stage name, while the latter used his actual last name, Cole, in that regard.
That small observation also points to how the South Korean and American music industries are vastly different in terms of lyrical content.
Korean artists like BTS tend to always try to incorporate a universally-uplifting message into their music. But stateside, music artists tend to be a bit more individualistic or focused on their own personal matters.