J. Cole Says He’s The Best Rapper Breathing & Tells Others To Pipe Down

J. Cole has already delivered one of the best albums of 2021, courtesy of The Off-Season. Named among the top LPs in Ambrosia For Heads’ midyear report, the album found Jermaine Cole treating the craft of rapping like basketball—and training diligently between his heralded 2018 KOD album and the 2021 follow-up. After being snubbed by the Grammy’s, Cole earned his first win alongside 21 Savageperhaps more motivation to go twice as hard.

Since the arrival of The Off-Season, two of Cole’s competitive peers have made big statements. This month, Drake delivered Certified Lover Boya record-breaking album that finds Drake showing his range and many abilities while entrenched in a years-long beef with Kanye West. Meanwhile, Kendrick Lamar’s first verse in years, courtesy of Baby Keem’s “family ties,” found the Compton, California superstar throwing elbows with lyrics like: “Smokin’ on top fives / Mother-f*ck that album, f*ck that single / Burn that hard drive (Burn that sh*t) / Ain’t nobody safe / When I come up killin’ everybody that’s outside (Who you with?) / Yeah, Kanye changed his life / But me, I’m still an old school Gemini (lil’ b*tch) / Let me jump in this b*tch.

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At the time of the release “family ties,” neither Kanye West’s Donda nor Drake’s CLB had dropped. Cole could easily interpret the “mother-f*ck that album” line to be a shot at The Off-Season, even despite his storied working relationship with K-Dot. This week, Cole released a new music video that certainly has Drake in mind (down to its use of the “Pipe Down” instrumental), but also considers Kendrick.

The new loosie video “Heaven’s EP” features Cole traveling to Las Vegas, Nevada to bask in the good life. However, his verse begins as a contrast to that environment: “With every record I be asking the masses to tune your hearts to me / I represent intelligent ni**as that grew up harshly / But lately I’ve been questioning, second guessing, whether or not I’ve got something to offer since I done eluded poverty.” He continues, moving closer to the subject of his place in the game, and his two Rap peers. “Or has the money watered me down, that truth is hard for me / Like the second time I got cut from the junior varsity / Fightin’ back tears, I promised to switch gears / And said to myself ‘Whatever you do, you won’t do it partially’ / From this day forward, I move with a new ferocity / Ferrari coupe velocity, a fail proof philosophy / Success is in the effort, so if a ni**a tried his hardest / I’m at peace knowing God ain’t deal it in this group of cards for me / Some people say that I’m running third, they threw the bronze at me / Behind Drake and Dot, yeah, them ni**as is superstars to me / Maybe deep down, I’m afraid of my luminosity / So when you see me on red carpets, I’m movin’ awkwardly.” In what is certainly not a coincidence, the instrumental Cole uses for this song is Drake’s “Pipe Down,” from Certified Lover Boy.

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Instead of getting chippy with either Drake or Kendrick, Cole gives props to his collaborators and peers. For a guy removed from the daily discourse of Hip-Hop fans, Cole shows that he is keenly aware that many put him behind Drake and Kendrick Lamar in the Rap rankings.

Cole then takes it further. As Drake has joined Kanye West, DJ Khaled, Travis Scott, and others in showcasing his family, Jermaine is deliberately different. “I be keepin’ my kids away from the gaze of the public / ‘Cause these days, it feel like hate is they favorite subject / F*ck it, attitude like a young O’Shea with a AK . Aimed at your brain, violate, and I bust it / I don’t play when it come to family, that’s one thing I refuse / Pimpin’ they kids out for views or just to be in the news / Could never be me, I piss in the celebrity tea / God with me on this record, this is Heaven’s EP.” As Pusha-T and Drake’s exchange has previously involved children and spouses, Cole warns all that his family is off-limits.

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Diplomatic before, now Cole flexes: “The tale’s official, the best ni**a breathing, it just failed to hit you / You couldn’t tell ’cause you fell for the bells and whistles / And that’s an area I don’t excel.” As Drake, Kanye, Kendrick, and other artists are savvy at garnering media attention through controversy and strategic roll-outs, J. Cole reminds all that he is decidedly low key, and still the best.

Cole closes with a bold reminder that his battery is charged and he is ready to show and prove. “Too much hunger / It’s no wonder these niggas can’t keep up / So saying yes to a feature just means I’m ’bout to eat lunch, b*tch / I’m goin’ for it, no never shall he punt / I’m the one and you can be sure, speaking of beachfront / I’m kickin’ my feet up while I write this in somewhere tropical / Supposed to be relaxin’, this passion makes that impossible.

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It is unclear if Heaven’s EP is coming soon and what else it will contain. Cole has previously promised other albums in advance.

#BonusBeat: A 2021 episode of Ambrosia For HeadsWhat’s The Headline podcast dedicated to the competition between J. Cole, Kendrick Lamar, Drake, and Travis Scott as the greatest rappers of the 2010s: