February 15, 2012

Popping My Below the Heavens Cherry: Drake vs. J. Cole (circa 2010)

Below the Heavens fans, I'd like to formally introduce myself. I am the newest member of the great team here at BTH, so to gain your trust here's a piece I wrote back in the fall of 2010. Seems like I nailed most of my predictions. Hit the jump to see for yourself.

Drake vs. J Cole

Drake vs. J Cole may seem like a landslide in Drake's favor today, but J Cole is coming up fast, and the conversation could be very different in a year or two.

Drake and J Cole have emerged into the public eye and the rap game at about the same time. Drake has achieved far more success and popularity so far, but if you ask me, the debate won't even be close in a few short years, and it won't be the one you think in the lead.

There are numerous similarities between these two up-and-coming artists. Drake is 24, Cole is 25. Both are signed to huge record labels with mentors who have the power to bring them infinite exposure. Both walk the line between Rap and R&B sometimes within a single song.

This is probably where the similarities end. Drake spent his early 20's on Degrassi, Cole spent his early 20's at St. John's University in Queens.

Drake is signed to Lil Wayne's label Young Money in 2009, Cole was the first artist to sign with Jay-Z's emerging label ROC Nation in 2008. This stark contrast in career moves is going to be the key to the artists future success, or lack there of.

Lil Wayne's star is fading in my opinion. Having spent the last year in jail, and having released nothing of note since the Carter III in 2007, Wayne has been seemingly spinning his wheels. Also, the way that he has brought Drake up, constantly putting him on tracks, and allowing Drake to ride his coat tails may be crippling to Drake's future. Wayne's way of life could suggest that more jail time could be to follow, or worse. Where would Drake be left then?

You can give a man a fish and feed him for a day, or give him a fishing pole and feed him for life. Jay-Z's approach with his prodigy's has been the same for years. He signs them, gives them every chance to succeed, but on their own merit. Jay never allows his talented followers to ride his success, he makes them pave their own way.

"Big brother got his show up in Madison Square
And I'm like yea, yea we gonna be there
But not only did I not get a chance to spit it
Carleen told me I could buy two tickets
I guess big brother was thinking a little different
Kept little brother at bay, at a distance
Put everything I felt was more focused
Only made me more focused
Only wrote more potent"

This of course is the classic verse from Kanye West's Big Brother which was written about his mentor Jay-Z. It would seem that Jay is taking the same approach with J Cole, who featured on Jay's A Star is Born from the Blueprint 3, but has been left on his own since. The result has been two phenomenal mix tapes which in my opinion are just as good if not better than Drake's wildly popular and successful first mix tape So Far Gone.

From a talent stand point, I think J Cole may be one of the most talented Rappers ever when its all said and done. I saw him live at his and my alma mater St. John's about a year ago which was my first real taste of his music. I was blown away and totally disappointed at the ridiculously poor turnout. There is no chance that one year ago on a college campus that Drake would have had such an empty arena.

I guess credit can be given to Wayne and Drake for their success now, but anyone who sleeps on HOV and his confidence in J Cole will be proven wrong after J Cole's first album set to be released in 2011.

It may take some time, but the foundation is being built for J Cole to far surpass the career of Drake.

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