Drake + J. Cole or Drake vs. J. Cole?
PSA: This is not news. News, journalism, is objective. What I am about to tell you is not in the least bit objective.
How do I feel about this announcement from XXL Magazine? If you asked my colleagues, they'd probably tell you I have mixed feelings. And they'd be right.
I hate Drake. Do I think he is talented? Yes. Do I think he is brilliant? Without a doubt. He's made a name for himself (and millions of dollars) by being unabashedly himself. I cringed the whole through my first viewing of his "Hotline Bling" music video, but I do have to admit it was a brilliant move. I cannot think of any other artist making that same video and having it work in his or her favor. But all he did was a funny dance? Yeah, pretty much.
Musically, I do not listen to Drake for substance, for feeling or quality rap music. (I listen because I like to be in the loop. Should I have included a trigger warning for y'all? Sorry.) But his songs are so heartfelt, right? Disgustingly so, yes, and I doubt he's really had any hardships in his life that inspire these rap ballads other than maybe playing the role of a handicapped teenager in DeGrassi.
But he makes hits, you say? Who cares! If I thought "hits" were an artist's only valuable criteria then I would be listening to the radio, not SoundCloud.
Yet the reason I am so ambivalent about this news is not so much because I dislike Drake with a passion, but because I am completely and hopelessly enamored by J. Cole. (Go check out my first review and see why.) I think he may be one of, if not the most, talented and hardworking rapper in the game. Even the quietly released Revenge of the Dreamers II, a Dreamville collaboration album, had me in awe. While he may not be releasing music as frequently as Future, he has a way of catching me by surprise with tracks like "Black Friday," releasing a live version of 2014 Forest Hills Drive on his birthday this year and producing both a personal, behind the scenes miniseries and a live concert documentary on HBO.
If anything, I think Drake would benefit from working with Dreamville and J. Cole. J. Cole could teach Drake a thing or two about making music that means something, not just music that appeals to the masses. Drake fans may argue that J. Cole could benefit from Drake's wide-ranging appeal and popularity. But when you're an artist as deep in your bones as J. Cole, adding in Drake's style just seems like poisoning the well to me.