Cultural Collab: J-hope of BTS, J. Cole bring the music world together through their mutilingual hip-hop song “on the street”


Iris Kim

An artist’s rendition of how j-hope and J. Cole came together to unite the music industry through their song, “on the street,” released earlier this month.

“Hope world meets Cole world.” 

J-hope of BTS shared with fans an Instagram post showing that he met his longtime idol, American rapper J. Cole, for the first time backstage at Lollapalooza on Saturday, July 30, 2022 — when he became the first South Korean artist to headline a main stage at a U.S. festival. 

Eight months later, the two “Js” team up to deliver a refreshing, old-school vibe through their Friday, March 3, bittersweet collaboration, “on the street (with J. Cole)” — just as fans expected from the two rap enthusiasts. 

With another BTS member, Jin, undergoing military enlistment, which was announced last December, and j-hope declaring himself as the next member to depart to the military, he gave his fans one last song before leaving. 

The collision of culture created a lo-fi, mellow hip-hop tune that does an excellent job expressing the angst a farewell message entails while using the guitar strings and a cheerful whistle melody to tie in appreciation. Additionally, the two artists smoothly transition between Korean and English, adding a special aspect to their collaboration. 

With the opening chorus, j-hope shares his gratitude toward his fanbase, ARMY: “Every time I walk / Every time I run / Every time I move / As always, for us. Through such lyrics, he pulls on the heartstrings of those watching his rise to fame but finishes by assuring that his efforts will “always” be toward his fans waiting for him to come back. 

In the first verse, the South Korean artist references the song title by reflecting on his days prior to joining BTS as a street dancer, which now serves as a metaphor for his hopeful attitude toward his own road in life: “In these streets imbued with someone’s breath / I leave my soul and my eternity / Everywhere (I’ll be).

Traditionally, hip-hop beats take on 16 bars per verse, and a featured artist is given one verse; however, J. Cole effortlessly hops on the song after a euphonious whistle break transitions into the second verse demonstrating why the title says “with” not the traditional “ft.” for feature. 

With 35 lines, the American rapper proves why many look up to him through his clever wordplay and switch in tone as he directs his lines to different themes. 

He commences by speaking about how his come-up in the music industry was neither rapid nor easy but a challenging journey in which he “fought tooth and a nail / Just to prevail amongst the ruthless as I move through the field.” 

Later in his verse, he uses the farewell message of the song to open up about his own uncertainty in the rap game, which he has been hinting at since his 2020 project, The Off-Season.

J. Cole sings that “[he] never did nothin’ better,” making it “hard to let it go,” only to emphasize in a torn manner that he knows it’ll soon be time to retire: “But like a father watching his daughter / Walk down the alter with tears in his eyes / You gotta let her grow.”

In the final chorus, Cole compliments his collaborator with his backing vocals, as both sing in an optimistic tone, “As always for us,” which brings back the “hope” the South Korean artist aims to give with his stage name

With three minutes and 36 seconds, the two artists displayed their lyricism and artificial abilities, just what fans would expect from the two legends. 

Other BTS members have been working with other artists they admire, such as Jimin’s feature on Big Bang’s Taeyang song “VIBE” earlier this year. Maybe ARMYs can anticipate other Western collaborations as the rest of the members announce their enlistment.