Joe Budden weighs in: Is J. Cole surpassing Drake and Kendrick Lamar?

J.Cole Surprise Performance at Apex Social Club at Palms Casino Resort
J.Cole Surprise Performance at Apex Social Club at Palms Casino Resort / Bryan Steffy/GettyImages

Joe Budden, the renowned rapper and media personality, shared his candid thoughts on the current state of hip-hop, particularly focusing on the trajectories of J. Cole and Drake.

During the conversation, Budden heaped praise on J. Cole's latest work, indicating that the young artist has surpassed the likes of Drake and Kendrick Lamar in terms of musical prowess. Reflecting on Cole's latest release, Budden expressed awe, likening it to Drake's "If You're Reading This It's Too Late" era, suggesting that Cole's flow and lyricism have reached new heights.

Kendrick Lamar
Chanel : Outside Arrivals - Paris Fashion Week - Haute Couture Fall/Winter 2023/2024 / Arnold Jerocki/GettyImages

Budden delved into the nuances of Cole's artistry, highlighting his intentional focus on perfecting his craft. He pointed out Cole's deliberate efforts to rap with diverse artists, showcasing his versatility and unmatched skill.

Regarding Drake, Budden didn't mince words, critiquing his recent musical direction as "Chuck E. Cheese music," implying that Drake's commercial approach lacks depth compared to the artistic endeavors of Cole and Kendrick.

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Budden speculated on Drake's motivations, suggesting that the artist may be prioritizing commercial success over artistic integrity, chasing after Billboard numbers and appealing to younger audiences. In contrast, Budden commended J. Cole for staying true to his artistic vision and crafting music with substance.

Budden's analysis resonates with fans eagerly anticipating J. Cole's upcoming project, "The Fall Off," which promises to marry conceptual depth with compelling storytelling. Budden's insights into Cole's authenticity and connection with his audience underscore the artist's enduring appeal and impact on the hip-hop landscape.

Fellow Slaughterhouse alumnus Royce Da 5’9" previously crowned J. Cole as the best of the “Big Three.” Royce praised Cole’s executive skills and urged everyone to put some “respek” on his name. However, he still considers Kendrick the best lyricist among the trio

J. Cole himself has addressed this debate. In his 2021 song “Heaven’s EP,” he rapped,

" Some people say I’m running third / They threw the bronze at me / Behind Drake and Dot / Yeah, them n-ggas is superstars to me.” While acknowledging his place in the hierarchy, he remains committed to his craft."

In the end, musical preferences are subjective, and each fan has their own favorite. Whether it’s the introspective storytelling of J. Cole, the chart-topping hits of Drake, or the poetic brilliance of Kendrick Lamar, these artists continue to shape the landscape of hip-hop.