Finding The GOAT: J. Cole vs. Big K.R.I.T…Who You Got?
As we continue the ultimate battle for the title of the GOAT (Greatest of All-Time), we are asking you to help us rank who is the greatest MC to pick up a mic. We will take over 35 years of Hip-Hop into consideration, pairing special match-ups in a sequence not unlike March Madness. For the next several months, we will roll out battles, starting with artists from similar eras paired against one another, until one undisputed King or Queen of the microphone reigns supreme.
The next two MCs to square-off are two of the brightest, most respected, and highly-versatile MCs in the 2010s: J. Cole and Big K.R.I.T. Both producers of many of their own hits, these two Southern voices conquered the conventions of lyricism below the Mason-Dixon. Each influenced greatly by different pockets of 1990s Hip-Hop, these men uphold the sound, the substance, and the relationship with the listener that makes Rap great. Read these quite different backgrounds and histories, listen to their music and cast your vote.
In the transition from the 2000s to the 2010s, J. Cole was poised to be one of Hip-Hop’s brightest new stars. Since before he stood beside Jay Z, the Fayetteville, North Carolina native was on the radars of many. A skilled MC who produced his own polished tracks, Cole approached his craft like a seasoned fan. A student of Nas, Jay, and Lupe Fiasco, he has sought to balance commercial success with strong artistic merit.
Confronted with album-making, J. Cole has thrived. His 2011 debut, Cole World: A Sideline Story, and his 2013 follow-up, Born Sinner, garnered acclaim critically and commercially, grabbing gold plaques during a steady decline in album sales. Cole has thrived in bridging the generational gap in Hip-Hop, beautifying imperfections, and courageously speaking on things in Rap that hold back the integrity of the artform.
Whether rapping alongside Nas or Kendrick Lamar, 50 Cent or Yo Gotti, J. Cole has engaging, unique things to say. He’s confident, diligent, and humble, all while being driven to conquer the Hip-Hop consciousness for his era. If you ask a large contingency, he’s already home.
Other Notable Tracks:
Like the Geto Boys in the ’80s, OutKast in the ’90s, and Little Brother in the ’00s, somehow Big K.R.I.T. has been tasked with proving “the South got somethin’ to say” in the 2010s. The Meridian, Mississippi MC/producer has embraced his regional heritage with strong dialect, cadence, slang, and delivery, but he’s stuffed his Trap music and Slab music with messages as enduring, heartfelt, and empowering as any in his class. A producer in his own right, Krizzle’s thumping bass, original sample sources, and complex arrangements have married music and messages with Heads who may typically ignore Hip-Hop from Dixieland, and Heads who crave vibe over substance.
Few unsigned artists have used mixtapes as effectively as K.R.I.T. Admittedly dismissed by his name and background, vehicles like 2010’s K.R.I.T. Wuz Here and 2011’s ReturnOf4Eva were organic, grassroots campaigns that showed the world that Hip-Hop’s next Van Gogh visionary may be upon them. It was in fact Krizzle’s peers, such as Wiz Khalifa, David Banner, label-mate Smoke DZA, and Devin The Dude that showed support before the masses knew how to. Now a Def Jam Records artist, the Cadillac-driving, bass-loving rapper has connected with those before him, those beside him, and those trying to get in the door to finally (and conclusively) kick down Rap’s walls and labels.
With him, K.R.I.T. brought merit to the music of the traps, the strip clubs, and the “Dirty South,” while making powerful messages about race, religion, class, and those flyover towns and values that Hip-Hop America too often forgets. Moreover, as Rap music continuously flirts with EDM, Pop, and the Dance music of the world, few artists under 30 have anchored the genre in its heritage as well as Krizzle. Not only does he carry on tradition, K.R.I.T. finally stands in the mainstream to champion unsung influences to many, such as UGK, 8Ball & MJG, Goodie Mob, and Swishahouse.
Other Notable Tracks:
“Hometown Hero” (2010)
“Make My” (with The Roots & Dice Raw) (2011)
Voting For Round 1 is now closed. Stay up to date with the latest Finding The GOAT brackets