Kendrick Lamar Versus J. Cole...Do I Have To Choose?

Why must we continue to compare? True, comparisons within Hip Hop date back to its inception. Some of the most infamous comparisons are Tupac versus Biggie, even Biggie versus Jay Z. Comparison, ranking, and competition have always been elements of Hip Hop, but where do we draw the line? When referencing one of today’s most relevant comparisons, Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole, I’m not quite sure. Two of arguably the most talented artists in the forefront right now are constantly being put against each other, and fans and listeners are subsequently forced to choose between the two. There is in fact a difference between a little friendly competition or even a comparison, and actually making people choose which talented MC to support. On one hand you have Kendrick Lamar, who had been grinding for years before he became mainstream, and who has achieved a great deal of commercial success with both Good Kid, M.A.A.D City and To Pimp a Butterfly. Kendrick has often been labeled a rebel, known for calling artists out, and saying what others in the industry have been too scared to say. Fans credit his "King of New York” line in Control to be the cause of the recent so-called reawakening of many rappers that were dormant — forcing them to get back in the ring, and thus overshadowing the ones who were not up to par. He enraged people, especially New Yorkers — but in Hip Hop that can be a good thing. From there he's been on a roll, never compromising his voice or his art. He has managed to maintain true lyricism and stay on top of the charts at the same time. Then you have J. Cole, who has a story considered to be one of the most inspirational stories out there. Raised by a single parent, Cole starting developing his gift as a rapper at just 12 years old. After years of following and admiring Jay Z and ultimately trying to grab his attention, J. Cole’s dreams came true. At a point where Jay Z was said to not be signing any rappers to Roc Nation, J. Cole was it. J. Cole made rap history by going platinum multiple times on his own terms. He quickly denounced any attempt to go commercial or “pop,” and continued to walk in the direction that was in line with his truth. And everyone else followed. J. Cole is put on a pedestal for his unique word play, his honesty, and his story of hope. He connects with his fans in some of the most intimate and vulnerable ways imaginable. In addition, the fact that he is a producer, both for himself as well as others, is yet another reason why people put him on such a high pedestal, and rightfully so. So where is this separation coming from? Is it regional? It doesn’t seem that way. J. Cole was born in Germany, moved to the South, and was put on by a New York artist. He gets love from all over the world. Kendrick is from California, but cosigned by Detroit’s finest, among numerous others from all over. Perhaps it’s about the sound. I've often heard J. Cole's music described as laid back, no gimmick, no hook, and no catch...just bars — street poetry. Although Kendrick is also known for his lyricism, his music is a bit more experimental. Many find Kendrick to be more consumed with the creativity and musicality of it all, as well as challenging many of the things we believe — going deeper. So, what about the story? Are people identifying with one of their stories more than the other? You wouldn't think so. Kendrick's story is one of growing up in Compton, one of the most notorious areas in the nation, and not becoming a statistic. It’s a story of hope, and a story of inspiration. J. Cole was raised without his father, and his life was not without adversity. But he never gave up, and he made it. Yet again, a story of hope and inspiration. Both are relatable. Both are lyricists. Both value good production. Both have been cosigned by some of Hip Hop’s biggest names. These two have worked with, and been in the presence of many of the same people…and they have worked together! So, what is it? Why do we have to choose one over the other? Both of them have various elements that people all over the world can identify with, and we should be grateful that we have not one, but two MCs that are leading the way in this new era of Hip Hop. Let’s enjoy what both of them bring to the game instead of making people choose. If you must put fans against each other, put fans of wack rappers against fans of artists of Kendrick and J. Cole’s caliber, so that the wack rappers can sit down. Because who wouldn’t want to live in a world where both Kendrick and J. Cole exist, and reign supreme?

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