Let’s Argue About Who’s the Better Emcee: Drake or J. Cole?
Frankly, I don't think that when it comes to pure emcee skills J. Cole vs. Drake is even much of a debate, and I said so via Twitter. But the response I got from that Tweet indicates that there's actually some serious disagreement out there on the interwebs about the relative merits of Jermaine vs. Aubrey. You asked for it, you got it, let's do this thing.
First off, we need to define "emcee". We're not talking about who's "hotter", who's sold more records, who's more influential or who's had more sex with Rihanna, we're just talking pure rhyme ability. If you were to play a track from both emcees for someone who knows nothing about hip-hop, then ask that person who the better rapper is, who would they pick? If aliens invaded Earth and said they were going to blow up the planet unless you played them a song that made them say "damn, that was really dope", are you playing them Cole or Drake.
Now that we've established the ground rules, let me offer up a quick defense of Drake. I know I give Drizzy a hard time on these pages cause, you know, he's softer than a kitten's vagina, but I do have respect for him as a rapper. He's turned out two very good albums and consistently puts out songs that you can't help but enjoy (see also, "I'm On One".) If Drake is the rapper the radio plays 100 times a day, things could be way, way worse.
But....Drake only ever raps about one thing: himself. Forget even doing political or social records, he never even takes on anyone else's perspective. Every song he's ever done is some version of "here's how I feel right now", which is why so many of his fans feel like they truly know him, but it also makes him a very limited rapper.
I'm going to guess that Drake defenders would point to "The Calm" as the track that showcases his skills as a dope emcee the best, and it's a powerful song, but that shit dropped four years ago now, and it's still just Drizzy talking about Drizzy.
Cole, on the other hand, routinely tackles topics ranging from the American justice system to the struggles of young black women to survive in a society that degrades them. It's an oversimplification to call Cole the "underground" rapper and Drake the "mainstream" rapper, there's nothing "underground" about being Jay-Z's protege, but I don't think there's any question that Cole's range and versatility as an emcee is miles beyond anything Drake has ever done.
Or, to put things as simply as possible, I had "Lost Ones" in mind when I first wrote that the Cole vs. Drake debate isn't really even a debate, at least when it comes to emcee skill.
So yeah, you're going to have a pretty hard fucking time convincing me that Drake is the better emcee, but on the real, I'm interested in watching someone try make the case for Drizzy. We'll break things down in the comments below, and we'll see how close this thing is with the poll below.