America’s worst nightmare didn’t manifest after the 2016 presidential election.
America’s worst nightmare is disregarded and oppressed every—single—day. A reality star as president isn’t a fraction of America’s awakening nightmare. America’s worst nightmare is an endless cycle of self-destruction. A cycle that continues to progress and dominate broken homes, prisons, Title 1 schools, and public housing.
“At a glance, I’m a failure
Addicted to pushing paraphernalia
But Daddy had dreams once, my eyes had a gleam once
Innocence disappeared by the age of eight years
My Pops shot up, drug-related, mama addicted
So Granny raised me in projects where thugs was hanging”
J. Coles’s “4 Your Eyez Only” is a direct reflection of America’s living nightmare. The remnants of the prestigious American dream turn into the forsaken of America’s worst nightmare. What happens to children raised in single parent homes? What does the future hold for a young girl raised without a father figure? What is the fate of a young man plagued by society to fail? Most of us aspire to be what seems attainable. If we are not given the opportunity to look beyond our circumstances, what appears remotely attainable is as far as the eye can see.
“It seems my dreams faded for far too long
The consequences deadly
Can’t visualize myself as nothing but a criminal
Control the block, serving up rocks and stay subliminal”
The core of America’s nightmare are caged birds, men and women sentenced to prison and deprived of their unalienable rights: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Maya Angelou said, “But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams. His shadow shouts on a nightmare scream. His wings are clipped and his feet are tied. So he opens his throat to sing.” Prisons are set forth to rehabilitate, reform, and reduce recidivism.
So, why do most men and women feel helpless after being released from prison? They are made to feel as if they are not worthy to be a part of a society that thrives on second chances. They feel they will amount to nothing more than what they check on a job application, a felon.
“Took me two felonies to see the trap
This crooked-ass system set for me
And now I fear it’s too late for me to ever be
The one that set examples that was never set for me
I’m living fast, but not fast enough
‘Cause karma keeps on catching up to me
And if my past becomes the death of me
I hope you understand”
Cole uses his knack for storytelling to paint a vivid picture of a tragic hero, James, a young black man defined and victimized by his circumstances. James is the epitome of America’s nightmare, raised in a broken home and destined to follow in the footsteps of an estranged father.
“I dealt with the repercussions of my actions
I know you tried to steer me ‘way from that shit
But that shit was in my blood”
The societal impact of “4 Your Eyez Only” is similar to the impact of Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power.” “4 Your Eyez Only” sheds lights on the black community, racism, and the effects of mass incarceration. James isn’t a figment of Cole’s vivid imagination, but instead an accurate representation of what can happen to young men raised in toxic environments. “4 Your Eyez Only” isn’t a record geared to receiving critical acclaim.
Instead, it’s meant to tell a story to incite change in our society. Contradictory to the title, “4 Your Eyez Only,” is intended for the masses to witness and spark the change to put an end to America’s nightmare.