Kendrick vs Drake vs J. Cole

I would like to preface this entry with a brief apology for the delay between posts. I teach and have been on “summer” break for the last 5 weeks and writing took a back seat to my vacation so once again, I’m sorry for the extended delay. I would also like to briefly explain the subject of this post. As I am still on vacation, I am not going to address Trump or religion with this post. I am going to keep it a bit lighter.

A couple of weeks ago Kendrick Lamar released his 4th album and I would like to give my 2 cents to the Kendrick Lamar, Drake, J. Cole debate. Now, once upon a time I was up to date with rap music and I was pretty much aware of most of the new music that was coming out, but alas, since I’ve lived overseas I have not been as diligent in keeping up with new music.

Now it seems fairly obvious why these three names are so often brought up together. Drake is one of, if not the biggest superstar on the planet and for better, or more often worse, whatever he puts out becomes the trend of the rap and pop world. However, this is not a good reason to compare his pure rapping abilities to that of Kendrick or J. Cole. When he raps, and I don’t mean hotline bling or the garbage that was Views (admittedly I haven’t listened to More Life because I am at a point where I can’t stand Drake) he is a talented rapper. Songs like The Language and the album Take Care are good projects, however that is all they are. No one hails Take Care as a classic nor should they. In fact the only reason I think Drake is in this conversation is because of the “cold war” going on between Drake and Kendrick. If Kendrick were to put his abilities to murdering Drake rather than making meaningful, topical albums, even Drake’s superstardom wouldn’t be enough to save him. All things considered Drake has somehow found himself being compared to Kendrick and it’s a ridiculous comparison.

Onto Jermaine. I will start by saying I am a huge J. Cole fan. He is actually the rapper I credit with making me a hip hop head rather than just a casual listener. However again here the Kendrick comparison is not a good one although it is more fitting than the Drake Kendrick one. J. Cole’s mixtapes were great! Friday Night Lights, The Warm Up, and The Come Up, are great projects. Enter Cole World: The Sideline Story, a wildly mediocre project that I haven’t listened to in years. Born Sinner was a better effort with tracks like Let Nas Down and Born Sinner standing out from that album. It was a good album, pleasing and easy to listen to. Forest Hills Drive is J. Cole’s best album to date. I would not personally give it classic status but I would be willing to listen to someone make that argument. Tracks like A Tale of 2 Cities, Fire Squad, and Love Yourz are great and that’s just to name a few. It’s personal it’s got a few bangers, it’s cohesive. I still love this album. 4 Your Eyez Only, is to me a step back for J. Cole. I don’t claim to know what he thinks when he’s in the booth but it feels to me like he is trying too hard to not play the game. There is nothing wrong with not wanting to be Drake, in fact I applaud that sentiment, and 4 Your Eyez Only is by no means a bad project, again, it is personal and touching and cohesive, however again it falls short of a classic. People lump Kendrick and J. Cole into the same category and I can see why but I think this comparison does no favors for J. Cole.

Enter Kendrick Lamar Duckworth and Section 80 his first album. Following Overly Dedicated, (a raw, unpolished Kendrick Lamar still outperforms Drake’s best effort.) Kendrick puts out the best album of the year in a year that features Take Care, Cole World, Finally Famous, and Watch the Throne. It has some truly brilliant tracks. Keisha’s Song, ADHD, Rigamortus, Hol Up to name a few, not to mention, Hiipower which is still 6 years later one of my favorite songs. The album isn’t flawless, it misses but the misses are infrequent and near misses. No Make-up isn’t amazing but here is the difference between Kendrick and the field. When Kendrick misses he doesn’t give us a track like Work Out, he still gives us a good song with a strong message. His mistakes are better than most artist’s successes.

Good Kid M.A.A.D. City is Kendrick’s first major studio album, and this album is as close to flawless as it’s possible to be. It tells a story so vividly that it’s impossible to believe that Kendrick is reflecting back on things that happened 7 years prior to the album’s release. It also contains Sing About Me, one of my favorite songs of all time, it is brilliant, it is tragic, it is creative, and it is thought provoking, Kendrick could have coasted off of that track alone but of course he would never do that. To Pimp A Butterfly, wow! An album that has created college courses, an album that has been archived in Harvard’s library, an album that motivated young black people while simultaneously terrifying old white people. This album is incredible and if you didn’t have Kendrick Lamar as a contender for the GOAT yet you should have after this effort. And now DAMN (Untitled Unmastered I am going to gloss over but make no mistake it is still an amazing 8 tracks and that is Kendricks outtakes.) DAMN is still too new for me to analyze properly, however it is challenging, and difficult and amazing.

Kendrick Lamar, Drake, and J. Cole, are often compared and mentioned together. This is both an insult to Kendrick and unfair to Drake and J. Cole, Kendrick stands alone at the top.

For brevities sake I didn’t touch on specifics, things like lyrical ability, storytelling ability, creativity, social impact, and more, all of which for the record Kendrick has more of than the aforementioned artists, I will expand on these things in a future post possibly. I also limited it to these 3 artists only although personally if anyone is going to even try and compare to Kendrick it is Logic, he should be in the conversation before both Drake and J. Cole but for some reason he is for the most part forgotten about.

These are my thoughts on these three rappers, I will return to Trump with my next post and I promise not to take too long before posting again.

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