You’ve seen the motivational poster about self image, yes? The one where the kitten stares into the floor mirror and sees a lion staring back at him? Above the kitten and the reflection of the kitten’s inner self reads, in large, heartening Times New Roman: “What Matters Most Is How You See Yourself.” It’s hard not to think about it when looking at the cover of Cole Beasley’s new rap album—yes, the Dallas Cowboys wideout has a rap album—The Autobiography. Then again, there’s no way that couldn’t have been the point.
If you can, Beasley would like you not to think of him as an athlete trying to moonlight as a rapper, but rather as a rapper that just so happens to play football. It’s a pretty sizable ask, considering he’s been playing professional football for six years and this is certainly the first time I’m hearing of this rapping thing. (I guess this isn’t exactly the first time, as he released a single in January called “80 Stings,” on which he rapped about how you couldn’t snatch his chain because he doesn’t have one; he earmarked that money for his kids’ college fund.) Of course Beasley is trying to set himself apart from your Lonzo Balls, your Dame D.O.L.L.A.s, or any other aspirational athlete-turned-rapper who definitely recorded during the spare time he could find between sports rehab and film sessions. Beasley told TMZ Sports earlier this month:
“This is well thought out, this was well-planned … I don’t feel like I’m following a trend or anything, most of ’em just rap how everything else is sounding, and I don’t think mine sounds like anything like what’s out today, I just get in the booth and the music comes on and I do however I feel to it.”
Which are all the things you’re supposed to say when you have a burgeoning—OK, nascent—rap career! I am different because I did this right, and therefore you should pay attention to me. That’s just good marketing. There was even a well-attended release party, and an outpouring of flame emoji and exclamation points from his Cowboys teammates. Quoth former teammate Dez Bryant, “Trying to bump something real? Go get my dawg album now.”
I did go get it, by which I mean I streamed it, on Spotify, for which I was already paying a monthly subscription. My first impression was that Cole rapped the entirety of the album while wearing a bro tank. The Autobiography was produced in full by a man named Phazz Clark—it all sounds very dire and motivational, like fighting-game options-menu boilerplate. This informs the song titles, and the content of the lyrics—the narrative thread here is that you, yes you, did not believe in Cole Beasley, and that’s fine because Cole Beasley believes in Cole Beasley. “I’m glad I got some fam who made me this, I’m glad they actually gave a shit,” he raps on the album opener “I Am What I Am.” “I ain’t sorry ’cause of the sacrifices it took to get the cheese,” he says on a song literally called “Sorry Not Sorry.” Beasley is plenty charismatic and, regardless of how sure I feel about any of this, he sounds very convinced of what he has to offer as a rapper. He has been rapping since he was at Southern Methodist, and has the confidence that comes from that experience. He reminds me, throughout the 46-minute album, of a few other rappers; he does a watered-down version of Dirty Sprite Drake on “Slow It Down,” a passable El-P in a bunch of different places; he gawkily stretches words over line breaks like G-Eazy pretty often. It’s just that The Autobiography sounds as if it were made in a dorm room, with flipping tires on Astro-Turf specifically in mind. If you only listen to rap music at the gym, this is probably for you.
All told, The Autobiography is a middling project held together by Beasley’s admirable confidence. He is, after all, the Jack Russell terrier of wide receivers—what he lacks in height or athletic prowess he makes up for with grit, effort, and self-belief. I would say The Autobiography reflects that, but it’s also a digestible 13 songs, if you’d like to hear for yourself. The better, truer version of that motivational poster says DELUSIONS in all caps, by the way. Beneath that one reads, “Maybe you ARE the reincarnation of Napoleon. I certainly can’t prove you aren’t.”