J. Cole and Kendrick Lamar lead the way

FAMU student buys clothing in support of his favorite hip-hop artist.
Photo courtesy Dennis Hudson

Two of the biggest stars in today’s music industry are Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole.

Both artists have gained extreme popularity since coming on the scene. Both have kept themselves at the top of the list of “Who’s the greatest rapper of this generation?”

Their styles and the messages captivate many consumers of hip-hop and rap sounds. They are often compared to one another, even though they have many differences.

J.Cole was the first artist to go double platinum with no accompanying artists in the past 28 years. Each of his six albums has reached No. 1 on the Billboard 200 charts, and all have gone platinum. J. Cole was nominated as Best New Artist at the 2012 Grammy Awards, and all 10 songs from his “4 Your Eyez Only” album debuted in the Top 40 of Billboard 100. He became the first artist to have three songs debut in the Top 10 of Billboard’s Hot 100.

Lamar won the Grammy Award for Best Rap Album in 2016, and has won 13 Grammy Awards so far. He was named one of the most influential people in the world in 2016. Lamar won five awards at the 2013 BET Hip-Hop Awards, including Album of the Year and Lyricist of the Year. He had seven nominations in both the 2014 & 2018 Grammy Awards. He also has the second-most Grammy nominations in a single night, trailing only Michael Jackson with 12 nominations in 1984. He has been named one of Top 10 greatest rappers of all time by Billboard magazine.

The lyricism that both artists display is appealing to large masses that have a passion for music. J. Cole worked on developing his understanding of rhyming and wordplay, while also learning how to tell stories through his lyrics. Kendrick Lamar has a way of being able to transition between different levels of lyricism with deeper meaning, which makes him a great lyricist.

J.Cole structured his album “Born Sinner” in a way that the listener can sense that he is in a dark place in the first half of the album and making his way to the “light at the end of the tunnel” in the bottom half of the album. He goes from saying “I’m ‘bout to go and join the Illuminati” to “Should this be my last breath? I’m blessed ‘cause it was purposeful,” within 14 tracks apart.

Lamar’s “To Pimp A Butterfly” displayed content musically and lyrically that would define black America in a way that could be envisioned for decades to come. He released the album at a time when racial tension and police brutality were roiling America. On this particular project, Lamar was more open-minded and decided to speak on topics within black society instead of giving his audience just a typical hip-hop album.

J.Cole uses his lyricism and storytelling ability to paint a visual image of anything and everything. Listening to Cole’s music with gives you a feeling of going through everything within his approach. Kendrick Lamar has a special technique in his style of writing that can make a listener think much deeper than the music itself to grab hold of the message that he is shedding light on.

If you love listening to music, you can’t go wrong with either artist. They are both incredibly talented and will go down as the greatest rappers ever when they both decide to step away from music.

For me, J. Cole is No. 1 and Kendrick Lamar is 1A.