“Immortal” is written by J Cole, also known as Jermaine Lamarr Cole, for his 2016 album “4 Your Eyez Only”. The song follows a 17 year old struggling to resist selling drugs. For most of the album J Cole raps from the point of view of his friend, James, who was a drug dealer. The song expresses the weight that death has from both J Cole’s friends perspective as a dealer and from his own view as an artist. The opening four lines of the song touch on the initial attractiveness of dealing drugs.
Now I was barely seventeen with a pocket full of hope
Screamin’ “dollar and a dream” with my closet lookin’ broke
And my nigga’s lookin’ clean, gettin’ caught up with that dope
Have you ever served a fiend with a pocket full of soap?
J Cole opens the song with this in order to introduce the conflict that dealing drugs creates. It can get people out of poverty, however it can also get people killed or thrown in jail. That’s why in the first line he says “pocket full of hope” referring to his pockets being full of drugs and those drugs are his hope to make it out. He continues on to say, “Screamin’ ‘dollar and a dream’ with my closet looking broke” furthering the fact that he is broke and with the drugs are going to help him fulfill his dreams because in the next line he says that his friends who are dealers are “lookin’ clean” while his closet is “looking broke”. These three line show how and why he got into dealing and the influence that his environment had on him. The song then transitions into a much darker tone and begins to talk about the trauma and death that followed him down his path with the line “have you ever served a fiend with a pocket full of soap”. This pain and trauma is illustrated in the lines
Numb the pain ’cause it’s hard for a felon
In my mind I been cryin’, know it’s wrong but I’m sellin’
Eyes wellin’ up with tears
Thinkin’ ’bout my niggas dead in the dirt
Immortalized on this shirt
He has to ignore the pain that has built up inside of him after he chose to walk the path of a dealer because he has no other option as “it’s hard for a felon” to get a job, buy a house or do much of anything. The line also refers to the police being hard on felons as earlier he says “keep watch for the cops/God they love to serve a nigga three hots and a cot” showing that he is constantly on the lookout for cops that “love” to give them time. In the end he can’t control the pain as his eyes are “wellin’ up with tears” while he’s “thinkin’ ’bout my niggas dead in the dirt”. The gravity of death is something no one is prepared to hold. He tries to keep in the tears as he says “in my mind I been cryin'” however in the next line his eyes are filled with tears as the weight of death comes crashing down on him. later in the song J Cole himself shares his attitude towards death saying
‘Cause they only feel you after you gone, or I’ve been told
And now I’m caught between bein’ heard and gettin’ old
Damn, death creepin’ in my thoughts lately
My one wish in this bitch, “Make it quick if the Lord take me”
I know nobody meant to live forever anyway
J Cole references Jay-Z many times through this son however the first line of this stanza “‘Cause they only feel you after you gone, or I’ve been told” is pulled from when Jay-Z said “They say ‘They never really miss you ‘til you dead or you gone.’”. J Cole feels that he won’t be heard and his words won’t be understood until he is dead and that is reflected in the next line when he says “And now I’m caught between bein’ heard and gettin’ old” with being heard meaning that if he dies now he will be heard and understood but if he grows old his message will be forgotten and he won’t have the impact that he desired. He then talks about how death has been on his mind recently showing the weight that it has put on him. He then wishes that if death were to come for him, that it would be quick and painless as he has seen the impact that it has on people including himself.