Myron B. Pitts
Two or three times a week, I take a shortcut on Worth Street from downtown on my way to work.
Several weeks ago, I saw an overturned, burning car on Worth near Blount Street. A city police officer was directing traffic.
I took another way in to work.
I found out later that the flaming car was a prop in a music video for J. Cole, a rapper who is all the rage and is a protege of Jay-Z.
How hot is the Terry Sanford High School graduate? Well, the video “Who Dat” featuring the burning car was released Monday and already has 1.8 million views on YouTube.
The directors shot the video in one extended take, according to a review in Entertainment Weekly, and it took two tries.
“It’s all very cleverly executed,” the magazine writes.
The video starts with J. Cole, whose first name is Jermaine, walking along railroad tracks near Worth Street. He suddenly starts rhyming and is soon joined by a cast of folks, from a bunch of admiring fans to the E.E. Smith High School marching band to cheerleaders at Fayetteville State University.
J. Cole graduated from St. John’s University and lives in New York but does not shy away from his Fayetteville roots, often mentioning Fayetteville or “Fayettenam” in his lyrics.
And now he has managed to put little Worth Street on the map, making it our most visible road, whether we like it or not.
“He picked the prettiest part of Fayetteville,” a co-worker of mine said sarcastically.
But rap stars don’t tend to go for “pretty” in their carefully crafted images. They want tough and grimy.
Worth Street fits that bill somewhat. It’s not very grimy, but it has a certain bleak look that fits rap videos.
The road is what Donaldson Street becomes after it crosses Russell Street. Worth goes by the county jail – not shown in the video, incidentally. It passes by a little white church and a roofing business and ends at Blount Street. I like to pass the church and was happy to see it make a brief appearance in the background.
But J. Cole spends most of the video in front of warehouses. At one point, he strides by a trash bin overflowing with loose, corrugated metal.
(The video directors would have really liked Worth Street back in the day. Years ago, it was home to heavy industrial concerns, from a petroleum refining company to a cannery.)
Toward the video’s end, the camera zooms in on a sign that says, “Leaving Fayetteville.”
The sign was added for the video, or at least, I’ve never seen it.
As for what J. Cole’s trying to convey, you be the judge. But if we go by this video, his heart hasn’t fully left Fayetteville yet.