For the last decade, many rap fans have routinely named J. Cole, Drake, and Kendrick Lamar as the leading voices of their generation. Each artist has attained #1 albums, Platinum plaques, industry awards, and the respect of their peers.
The Hip Hop heavyweights are often pitted against each other as fans debate who is the greatest emcee to emerge from the 2010s. Plus, it is perceived that each man is striving to hold the GOAT crown for himself. Cole spoke about that competition during an appearance on Kevin Durant’s The ETCs podcast.
“These are the guys that push you, and you gotta push them,” said Cole. “But what I’ve been trying to do for the past few years – I think I was so competitive. I don’t know how they feel, you’d have to talk to them – but I know for myself, I was so competitive earlier on, even though we were all friends and friendly, I never been a ‘reach out’ [person], especially when it’s competition involved.”
He continued, “It’s almost like working out together. I guess like in the NBA in the past, that was unheard of. ‘Why would I work out with this n####? I’m trying to destroy this n####.’ That was kind of like my mentality early on. But as I’ve gotten older I’ve realized, ‘Actually… Noone is truly my peer or can relate to what I’m going through in life more than these people right here.'”
The 36-year-old Fayetteville, North Carolina native added, “I’ve been trying to make an effort as time goes on to strip the competition from it. Y’all n##### are cemented forever. I would hope that I’m cemented forever. And if not, I will be when it’s all said and done. In my mind, that’s how my mentality is… There’s just less competition in my mind. Cause n##### is old, bruh.”
J. Cole, Drake, and Kendrick Lamar have worked with each other on various projects over the years. Lamar’s Section.80 track “HiiiPoWeR” was produced by Cole. The Compton native then showed up on J. Cole’s “Forbidden Fruit” off 2013’s Born Sinner album.
Kendrick Lamar also provided the solo track “Buried Alive Interlude” for Drake’s Take Care in 2011. Drake returned the favor by being a feature on Lamar’s “Poetic Justice” from 2012’s Good Kid, M.A.A.D City. In addition, J. Cole and Drake linked up in 2010 for the Friday Night Lights mixtape’s “In The Morning” as well as “Jodeci (Freestyle)” three years later.
Many Hip Hop followers had been patiently waiting for J. Cole, Kendrick Lamar, and Drake to each release new bodies of work in 2021. Cole became the first of the pack to drop a new project when The Off-Season arrived last Friday (May 14).
The Off-Season is already a breakout commercial hit. Cole’s sixth studio LP topped the iTunes all-genre album chart. “My Life” featuring 21 Savage and Morray has led both the Spotify and Apple Music daily songs charts. The album is projected to move 280,000-310,000 first-week units which could give J. Cole the biggest debut sales week of the year.