Has Kanye West vs. J. Cole Lost Its Luster?

June 10th, 2013

(Photos from left: Andreas Rentz/Getty Images, Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

By Jacob Rohn

It was all just good a week ago. J. Cole and Kanye West were set to make June 18 an early Christmas for hip hop fans with their respective new releases (Born Sinner and Yeezus) going head-to-head in a move that would most certainly increase attention and sales for both. But some of J. Cole’s new material, including the album’s most buzzed-about tracks, “Let Nas Down” and his collabo with Kendrick Lamar, “Forbidden Fruit,” was leaked last week, letting the air out of his sails and, quite possibly, his sales.

On top of that, Kanye added to the chaos, when he decided that due to mixed feedback on his early releases, “New Slaves” and “Mama’s Boyfriend,” he would need to make some last minute changes to the album, which included contributions from Rick Rubin. As of now Def Jam has not said whether or not the album will still drop on June 18. With everything going on, has the prizefight-like atmosphere dissipated from what might be hip hop’s biggest day of the year?

Cole will probably suffer more than Kanye, because his most highly anticipated material has been exposed, and even though the songs have gotten pretty good feedback, the incentive to buy the rest of the album is lessened significantly. His first single and two marquee tracks are already in the realm of public consumption. Cole is a legitimate star and his album has been on fans’ radar for quite some time. He has successfully built up a sizeable fan base. But, as everyone knows, the sophomore album is critical to any artist’s career. Typically it’s the second album that determines whether someone is a one hitter quitter or here to stay.

For Yeezy’s part, he may not have hurt his stats at all. The first thing to remember is that this is one of the premiere showmen in music, not just hip hop, but music as a whole. Even when he’s not trying, he garners more attention and free press than just about anyone else. So far with this album he has successfully drawn attention to it from hip hop fans AND haters by naming it Yeezus, a move that a lot of people found to be blasphemous and disrespectful, but just like with Howard Stern, even the detractors are forced to pay attention to his every move. As an established artist, Kanye also gets the benefit of the doubt because his previous five albums have all been hailed by critics. He gets the benefit of the doubt because he has branded his music as the exact opposite of his personality; magnetic. Kanye’s sales might actually increase since it’s being widely reported that Rick Rubin has now been tapped to put the finishing touches on the album.

Hopefully June 18 will remain every bit as important as it should be. J. Cole’s Born Sinner and Kanye West’s Yeezus will hopefully stir up a healthy competition or at least curiosity that will propel each to greater sales and exposure. Days like this are great for hip hop. These two albums have gotten so much coverage it’s definitely a win-win for everyone.

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