A Thesis On J. Cole: A Teenager Finds Inspiration In Music

Feb 14, 2019

Bob Dylan, the Clash and many other musicians resonated with the teenagers of their eras, and today’s teens have their own artists whose music inspires and heals. Today's Dayton Youth Radio producer tells us how J. Cole's music inspired him during a tough time in his life.

My name is Max Lightcap. I'm 18, a senior at Centerville High School. There are some things that have happened to me that many of my friends don't know about.

Ever since my early youth, it's just been me, my dad, and my sister Brandi at home. My sister left when I was like 7 for college and then entered the military. She has been more of a female role model than my mom has. I used to see my mom pretty regularly when I was younger, but now it's a rare occasion.

One of the happiest moments I had when I was a child was when my sister came home for Christmas. My dad was in the hospital, but he was able to come home for Christmas too. It was so awesome to have my whole family there. The best present I received was the smallest one, these two dog tags that said "Easy Company Max Lightcap". Then on the other it said "I will always be there. Brandi". I brought those dog tags everywhere I went so I could remember she was always with me no matter if she was in Iraq or just a room away.

When I lost those dog tags in fifth grade, it was like everything slowly gradually started going downhill. My dad and I have never been the wealthiest of families, but we got by. That was until March of 2016 when my dad wasn't able to come up with the rent. I knew we were going to get evicted, but it didn't really sink in till it actually happened. We ended up having to stay with my sister's best friend's mom, Cindy, very confusing I know. I was really not used to living in this environment. It was almost like I was living in two different worlds. At school, I always had a lunch yet at home, we couldn't afford milk. My dad told me to pour water on my cereal.

Stuff like this really made me realize what position we were in. Then for about a week, I escaped everything and had some great experiences on my mission trip in Blue Ridge, Georgia. But when I got back, my dad and Cindy got in a huge fight, and she forced us to leave. All my clothes and belongings were on the back porch just thrown into trash bags; other stuff that didn't fit in the bags was just scattered on the porch. Some things were even cracked and broken, which is exactly how I felt at the time. Cracked and broken. We ended up staying at a Studio Six motel by the mall that night; we'd be staying at that motel for the rest of the summer.

That summer I listened to more music than I ever had in my entire life. It was mostly rap music, but it was really helped me get through a tough time, especially the artist J. Cole. Cole's music really changed me as a person. It taught me to be more selfless, especially when dealing with tough situations with my family.

It was like I really connected to his music because it felt as if he was speaking to my life. He wasn't just another artist to me. I felt many of the same struggles he discusses in his music.

Right before school started my sophomore year, my dad and I gathered up the money to live in an apartment in Centreville. We've lived there for two years now, and I'm so thankful to everyone who helped us out in this situation. And of course for J Cole, for being a huge role model to me and keeping my head up with his awesome music to this day. That summer was the most impactful in my life because without it I wouldn't be the man that I am today.

Max Lightcap is a student at Centerville High School. Special Thanks to Tricia Rapoch, teacher for the Communication Arts Program at Centerville High School. Learn more at the school's website:  http://www.centerville.k12.oh.us/CHS  Dayton Youth Radio is supported by the Virginia W. Kettering Foundation and the Ohio Arts Council.