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The Issue with Pride

Poetically poignant and positively thought-provoking, rap legends J. Cole and Kendrick Lamar have each had their say on what pride means to them – or, more specifically, how they’ve experienced pride first-hand as an obstacle to their ultimate success, on tracks p r i d e . i s . t h e . d e v i l and PRIDE., respectively. If two of our generations most successful music Role Modelz are telling us the secret is in forgetting your pride, it’s probably worth considering the idea.

So, what, by definition, is pride?



‘a high or inordinate opinion of one’s own dignity, importance, merit, or superiority, whether as cherished in the mind or as displayed in bearing, conduct, etc.’

Pride is actually listed as one of the 7 deadly sins, alongside covetousness, LUST., anger, gluttony, envy, and sloth – but what makes this abstract thing so ‘deadly’?

Well, your post-mortem is not gonna say ‘too much pride’, obviously. So, when Cole states that ‘it left so many RIP’, he’s talking about making a series of pride-fueled decisions which could lead to our ultimate death.

An inflated sense of self-importance; a desire to always appear the ‘big man’; a need to be the centre of attention; a FEAR. of failure: all these things embody our pride and often appear prerequisite to success – yet its everything that Cole tells us is wrong with the world.

As he gets older, more successful, and wiser, Cole’s ‘slowly realizing what the root of all [his] problems’ are – pride. So, he turned his lesson into a warning – and a certified banger. This is J. Cole were talking here, not to mention the Lil Baby feature; they could have just collaborated to flex their money, their lifestyle, and their talent on a chart-topping song.

But, they chose to create a song embodying a lesson which Cole had to learn the hard way: drop your pride if you want to be successful. Lil Baby reiterates this one from his own experience: ‘all my pride gone, had to lose it all then I got rich’.

The impactful message of the tune is beautifully summarised in its title: pride is the devil. That alone is powerful and Real. Both Cole and Kendrick are religious advocates: if pride is the devil, then humility, by contrast, is the metaphorical equivalent to GOD. (or any form of ‘good’ in religion). I suppose you could say, then, that the message is not dissimilar to one you might have heard before:


Enter Kung Fu Kenny – the Savior. The guy needs no introduction. Known for never missing, its no wonder K-dot has risen straight to the top of the music game with masterpieces like Good Kid, m.A.A.d City, To Pimp a Butterfly, and now his latest tape Mr. Morale and the Big Steppers. Having come a long way from his gangster days, Kendrick is undoubtedly a genius and an absolute master of rap. With credentials like this, you’d be a fool to think that the 34-year-old doesn’t know what he’s talking about when it comes to what it takes to be successful. So, when Kendrick opens his track, poignantly titled PRIDE., with ‘Pride’s gonna be the death of you and you and me’, don’t just think these are meaningless lyrics.If the 5-year period it took Kendrick to write Mr. Morale and the Big Steppers tells us anything, it’s that the artist takes the proper time to craft meaningful thoughts into his lyrics, with clear intentions behind each one.

Pride is the devil. Pride’s gonna be the death of you. The pair make their message pretty clear.

Okay, so what? Obviously, it’s hard to relate to two multi-million-dollar celebrities, so let’s consider pride on a more relatable scale.

Say your boy is bumping some new Cole and it’s a song you haven’t heard before, but you fuck with it – what do you do? Chances are: you pull out Shazam or Snapchat to get that song name, cos’ no way are you letting your friend know that they’ve put you onto it. Why?

Surely, we’d want to let our FRIENDS know that they have good music taste, no?

Maybe, but our pride in our own music taste and our desire to hide the potentially embarrassing fact that we don’t know the song might hold us back. By the time the song ends, Shazam hasn’t loaded, Snapchat’s frozen, and we’ve missed an opportunity to grow that rap playlist we’re so proud of.

Or, say you’ve written an essay and get a friend to give you some notes on it. They send it back -covered in red and suggestions for improvements. What could have been a great opportunity to bolster our essay and our future skills is replaced when our pride kicks in:

They think they’re better than me? Fuck that! I’m submitting the original piece and keeping it to myself next time.


But this is another example, albeit on a smaller scale. The extent to which our pride obstructs our path to success is endless, extending from these minor examples to the point in which someone trying to ‘act way harder than he really be’ when someone pulls a gun on them gets killed for their foolish attachment to their pride.

Pride is the devil.

I’ll keep saying it until we truly get it, and so will Central Cee:

“I got no ego, I got no shame, I swallow my pride…”

– Ungrateful

…and Childish Gambino:

“It made me put away my pride…”

– Redbone

… and Drake:

“You’re supposed to put your pride aside and ride for me…”

– Keep the family close

… and Frank Ocean:

“I’d rather chip my pride than lose my mind out here…”

– Seigfried

… and The Weeknd:

“Once you put your pride aside, You can notify me…”

– Try Me

… and Mac Miller:

“Don’t fuck around and be a victim of your pride..”

– Hurt Feelings

Should I go on? These are just a few successful guys who happen to condemn pride; you might have heard of one or two them.

I think you get the idea by now. Hopefully.

So, whether your Team Kendrick / Team Cole, Messi / Ronaldo, wheels / doors, in / out, (Hotel / Trivago?), put your preferences aside and appreciate the pure genius of these two artists; not only that though, take note of the core principles that their music teaches, and you truly broaden your chance of becoming as great as these two legends.

I’ll leave you with this thought-provoker, then, which might have been Kendrick, Ghandi, or the bible – I forget. Anyways:

‘Bitch, sit down: BE HUMBLE.’

Published by Jack Anderson

Founder & Director of No Extra Source / Undergraduate student at University of Leeds


  1. Love the article Jack. Very insightful and some great references to each of the artist’s angles, background and other songs!

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