Get stoked everybody, it’s Pop Star Face Smash time! Rap edition! In one corner, an undisputed rap God, the one and only Kanye West. In the other, underground king turned budding superstar, J. Cole. Both released albums on June 18th—Yeezus and Born Sinner—to rave reviews, prompting us at Badger Senate to figure out once and for all who wins in this showdown between rap royalty and a youngin’ gunning for the throne.
Let’s start by looking at their respective careers. Kanye has been one of music’s biggest stars since he burst onto the rap scene with his 2004 debut The College Dropout, capturing a Grammy for Best Rap Album. He would follow this up by taking the award with his next two albums, 2005’s Late Registration and 2007’s Graduation. With five number one albums (likely soon to be six) under his belt, no one could dispute Kanye’s domination of hip hop over the last decade. J. Cole took a much different route to hip hop fame. While Kanye became known after dropping out of college, Cole got his first tastes of the music industry while at St. John’s University, where he graduatedmagna cum laude. After completing his studies and dedicating himself to hip hop he became known on the underground for a series of three
mixtapes, The Come Up, The Warm Up, and Friday Night Lights. Cole eventually gained the attention of Jay-Z, who signed him to his Roc Nation label. With his first album, Cole World: The Sideline Story, debuting at number one in 2011, Cole established himself as a rapper to keep an eye one, and this month’s Born Sinner proves that he’s ready to be one of the elite rappers in the game.
If there’s one aspect in which Kanye clearly has the edge it’s his influence. He’s left a permanent imprint on hip hop music. His constantly changing style takes hip hop production places it’s never gone, and he’s arguably the greatest producer ever to do it. He has influenced every producer and nearly every rapper of the past decade, including Cole himself, who lists Kanye as one of his idols. But Cole also proved on Born Sinner that he has established his own style of production and, let me tell you, it is fucking awesome. Get ready to sit back and watch his influence explode in the next few years.
Just as Kanye has the advantage in influence, Cole takes the cake when it comes to fan friendliness, releasing Born Sinner online for free following its leak. And then there’s his current “Dollar & A Dream” Tour. Cole released the dates and cities of the shows, but waits until the day of to announce the venue. So how is this fan-friendly, you ask? Every ticket, to every show, costs $1. No bullshit processing fees, no delivery charge, just one crisp dollar bill.
I would be remise if I didn’t at least gloss over their personal lives. There isn’t a whole lot to say for Cole. While his songs include tales of cheating and womanizing, he is rumored to still be dating his college girlfriend, and for the most part stays out of the spotlight. Kanye, on the other hand, is the polar opposite. From model girlfriends to endless threesomes to a level of fame that would make God himself jealous, Kanye feeds off the spotlight. This shouldn’t even be a competition. And it wouldn’t be, if Kanye had done the smart thing and put on a damn rubber before sticking it in a Kardashian. It’s one thing to fuck a Kardashian; sleeping with Kim may well be one of Kanye’s greatest accomplishment. It’s a whole different thing altogether to actually date one. And with a newborn baby (with a dumbass name) and rumors of an upcoming Kimye marriage, it looks like Kanye may be stuck with America’s favorite family to hate for some time to come.
So who wins this Rap Star Face Smash showdown? Kanye…for now.
Written by Mike Goedert