- J. Cole’s Puts “Born Sinner” vs. Kanye West’s “Yeezus”: Stupid, or Stupid Like a Fox?
- Fails: Nicki Minaj Takes The Lap Dance To New Levels Of Awkwardness (Video)
- Internet Memes Gone Wrong: The Drake & Miguel Drop Kick Edition (Pics)
- Sweet Baby “Yeezus” Kanye Killed These SNL “Black Skinhead” & “New Slave” Performances
- Chief Keef Makes Less Money Than Your Average Orthodontist
The Great Debate: Will J. Cole Become a Mainstream Star? Not LikelyPosted by Nathan S. on 08/08/11 | Filed under Top Stories, Features, J. Cole, The Great Debate
Will J. Cole become a star? It’s a simple question, and the simple answer is no. But like all questions truly worth answering there’s a lot more to the query than meets the eye.
Of course, before we get into the possible come up of Jermaine Lamarr Cole, there’s one essential question we need to answer first; what makes someone a star? Anyone reading this probably already thinks of him as a star, we all rush to download every new Cole song that splashes across the interwebs, but despite what those of us living inside the hip-hop blog bubble might think, ours is a distant planet to most of America. We’re the Pluto of this America shit. Or whatever the most distant planet is now that Pluto’s not a planet anymore.
To truly be a star your name needs to be on the lips of everyone in America, hell, the whole world. Your name needs to not only be dropped in street corner debates and internet forums, you have to appear in the People magazine of a suburban housewife in Idaho, have the cancellation of your tour lead Entertainment Tonight.
To put our working definition of a star in simpler terms, your mom needs to know who they are. Eminem? Yep, my mom doesn’t need to be told who that guy in the Chrysler commercials is. Jay-Z, Kanye, Beyonce, Lady Gaga, Snoop Dogg? Yes, yes, yes, yes and yes. Rihanna, Nicki Minaj? Maybe, maybe not. Drake? Not impossible, but unlikely. (Actually, there’s no need to make this hypothetical. Hold on while I call my mom………nope, no idea who Drake is.) J. Cole? Definitely not.
All we’ve proven so far is what we already knew. Right now J. Cole’s not a star. But could he become one? Here’s the thing. Everyone I named above, everyone who’s implanted themselves into the collective American consciousness, has their one thing. They do one thing better than anyone else, they are one thing that no one else is. Eminem’s both (debatably) the best rapper alive and (not debatably) the only famous white rapper. Beyonce is the uber-diva of our generation. Lady Gaga is, well, whatever Lady Gaga is. It wasn’t until Jay became the richest and most powerful man in hip-hop that he truly became a star. So what’s Cole’s thing? What will make Cole stand out against the infinitely crowded backdrop of American popular culture?
Honestly, I don’t know. He’s a good producer, but not yet a great one. He’s a damn good rapper, but not yet an elite one. His musical style certainly isn’t anything groundbreaking, he hovers in the same modern-take-on-classic-hip-hop we’ve heard before. As a person, at least the person we see from interviews, there’s nothing about Cole that demands your attention. If anything, his appeal is in his everyman status. He’s felt the same pains we all have, he’s struggled with the same issues we have. (By contrast, the only pain Drake knows is Drake’s). We feel like we could sit down and just kick it with Cole. With some relatively minor imaginative tweaks, we feel like maybe we could even be Cole.
All that makes him one of the best things hip-hop has going, an artist we’d all be better off following. It might even make him the top pick for savoir status (if hip-hop needs saving), but it doesn’t make him a star. In fact, we haven’t heard anything from him yet that suggests an artist with the appeal to reach every home in America. Not that weak "S&M Remix" he did with Rihanna, not even the solid "In the Morning" and definitely not "The Work Out". If the heads or Roc Nation decide to flip "Can’t Get Enough" from leak to official single status we might be getting warmer, but until then……..
The good news is that the book on J. Cole is far from closed. In a recent interview with Angie Martinez Jay-Z reiterated that he’s committed to developing Cole over the long term, and the man’s only in his mid-20’s. It’s not inconceivable that he could become a star, but right now it looks unlikely. And you know what? If he doesn’t reach that stratosphere, that upper echelon, that’s fine. In fact, it’s better than fine. The artists that have provided the soundtrack to my life over the years, Mos Def to pick one at random, weren’t stars. The stars are above us, untouchable, but right here on Earth we don’t need stars, we need more grounded rappers. We need more J. Coles.
Check out the opposing point from TheWellVersed and then vote below:
UPDATE: Our debate inspired Sermon's Domain to write his own take on the question. Check it out.