Why J. Cole Is The Tim Duncan Of Hip-Hop

Last week, J. Cole released a video loosie at just the right moment. The “Heaven’s EP” track was recorded to Drake’s “Pipe Down” instrumental. It arrived after a month where Kendrick Lamar proclaimed himself, “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.” Kendrick’s appearance on Baby Keem’s “family ties” occurred days before the arrival of a new album from Drake, Certified Lover Boy, reigniting a competition that goes back over a decade among collaborative peers.

Having already released a 2021 album, The Off-Season, J. Cole enters the discussion with lines on his new song, “Heaven’s EP.” He raps, “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.” A verse later, Cole does not fail to assert himself at the top: “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.” This comes after J. Cole pointedly reminds people that he does not use his children or private life to fuel promotion. Some could have perceived that line as a diss towards Drake (or Kendrick, who alluded to fatherhood on “family ties”). However, Drake already stepped forth as an ally. While J. Cole opened his Off-Season Tour, Drake surprised him in Miami, Florida, publicly sharing some thoughts. “You know, you did that ‘Pipe Down’ freestyle the other day. You was sayin’ in the freestyle that they gave you the bronze or whatever, me and Kendrick…I just want you to understand something. You are genuinely, without a doubt, one of the greatest rappers to ever touch a mic.”

J. Cole’s Off-Season Has Several Cryptic References To Nas’ Illmatic

On episode #62 of the What’s The Headline podcast (embedded in video and audio below), the Ambrosia For Heads breaks down J. Cole’s place in the game—debating whether he deserves the bronze (as his lyrics suggest), the silver, or the gold (at 43:00). Moreover, the podcast unpacks the song and discusses some motives for the timing that go beyond Drake and K-Dot. Additionally, a strong case is made that in an era of flashy highlights, bigger-than-life personalities (care of Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, and Lebron James), and using the media to command attention, J. Cole is the Tim Duncan of Hip-Hop. “The Big Fundamental” was a two-time NBA MVP, a five-time champion, and a future Hall of Famer after a nearly 20-year professional career—all with the San Antonio Spurs.

There is also a deep-dive into The Fugees’ surprise reunion tour, new music from Westside Gunn and Blu, plus much more.

Below are the time-stamps for episode #62 of the What’s The Headline podcast:

0:00 Intro
1:00 The Fugees have reunited to celebrate the 25th anniversary of their album The Score
2:30 Why 25th anniversaries matter more than others
8:40 How The Fugees went from near bust to being one of the biggest artists in music
15:40 Is the excitement around their reunion about The Fugees or Lauryn Hill?
19:50 Why The Fugees broke up and the personal differences they had to overcome to reunite
33:15 What motivated The Fugees to reunite now
41:40 This may be the beginning of a new chapter for The Fugees
43:10 J. Cole stakes his claim as Hip-Hop’s best MC on “Heaven’s EP”
43:40 J. Cole is very intentional about releasing singles outside of albums
48:15 Why J. Cole released “Heaven’s EP” now
49:30 Is J. Cole using this single to remind the Grammy Awards about The Off-Season album
52:50 J. Cole says he represents “intelligent [people] who grew up harshly
55:00 J. Cole, Kendrick Lamar and Drake all question themselves but in different ways
58:20 Is J. Cole the best MC between him, Kendrick Lamar and Drake
1:00:48 J. Cole is the Tim Duncan of Hip-Hop
1:03:15 J. Cole is able to do anything Kendrick Lamar and Drake can but doesn’t get the props for it
1:04:57 Drake tells J. Cole he is one of the greatest rappers to touch a mic
1:07:26 Ja Rule is getting his flowers after his Verzuz with Fat Joe
1:07:40 50 Cent killed Ja Rule, using Ja Rule’s hit-making formula
1:10:00 Why does Hip-Hop tear down its biggest stars?
1:19:00 Styles P says part of his Verzuz strategy was influenced by 6ix9ine
1:20:27 Benny The Butcher’s collaboration with Drake has leaked
1:23:20 Westside Gunn has released 2 of 2021’s best albums, with his Hitler Wears Hermes 8: Sincerely Adolf series
1:26:00 Discussing Blu’s new album, The Color Blu(e)

How J. Cole Used Drake’s Playbook To Score His Biggest Hit & Win A Grammy

AFH readers can catch regular discussions about the culture on our What’s The Headline podcast. Additionally, What’s The Headline has recent interviews with Blu & Mickey Factz, Kurupt, Evidence, Skyzoo, Pharoahe Monch, Prince Paul & Don Newkirk, Statik Selektah, Lyric Jones, The LOX, MC Eiht, Havoc, Duckwrth, photographer T. Eric Monroe, and Lord Finesse. All episodes of the show are available to view or for listening wherever you stream your pods.

#BonusBeat: Several selections from J. Cole, Kendrick Lamar, and Drake are presently on the official AFH playlist: