Last week when upstart rapper J. Cole stepped onstage at New York's S.O.B.'s, he was welcomed by a packed house. Among those in the audience were fellow MCs Talib Kweli and Asher Roth.
There were even whispers throughout the crowd that the attendance at the event, Hot 97's Who's Next series, surpassed the number of people who came out last May to witness Drake's coming-out party during his headlining spin at the same showcase.
Although Cole, who was signed to Roc Nation by Jay-Z, and Drake have different styles, lately the two artists have been compared to one another with increasing regularity. Drake himself, in an interview in the February/March issue of Complex magazine, called Cole his favorite rapper right now. He compared the North Carolina native to Nas, while claiming he might be the new Jay-Z.
But Cole, who currently graces the cover of The Source and is one of the featured Freshman 10 in the latest issue of XXL magazine, said it's too soon to make any lofty comparisons. Drake just released his first single, "Over," while J. Cole is still working on his debut, the follow-up to his breakout mixtape The Warm Up.
"Comparisons are natural," Cole told MTV News. "You're going to compare LeBron to Jordan or [Dwyane] Wade to whoever you compare him to. But in this particular instance, and no disrespect to [Drake's] opinion, because that's how he feels, but I feel like it's too early.
"You can't call things like that, that early," he continued. "You can't say I'm Nas because, look, Nas was in the game for 16 years. What if I'm not here next year? What if you're not here next year? I don't think you can say stuff like that this early, but I understand what people are saying. At his status right now, he's the most talked-about guy in the game. The Nas comparison is like, 'He gets a little bit beyond the surface,' but I feel like when it comes to those comparisons, it's way to early. And you never know, 10 years from now, I could be Jay."
In the meantime, J. Cole, a St. John's University grad, is basking in the success of selling out S.O.B.'s. When he was an incoming freshman, he attended Kanye West's breakout performance at the same venue in 2004. Having spent time in the Big Apple and seeing how West's career played out after that showcase, Cole described what it meant for him to take the same stage.
"This moment is crazy," he said. "I'm not from New York, but I did spend years here, good years. Four weeks within me moving to New York, I was in this very spot. A month after I got to school, Kanye West had his very same show here and I was a fan. I saw the "Through the Wire" video. I was a real fan at that point, like fanatic almost. ... So to watch his show here was legendary. And the reason why this show is so special to me [now] is because around [August last year], they were trying to get me here and I was like ... it didn't feel special yet. So I held off for months and months and months, so now it feels like, for me, one of those moments. And if I was going to do S.O.B.'s, I was going to try and re-create those moments if possible in my own little special way."
What do you think about the Drake/ J. Cole comparisons? Do you think they'll be the talk of hip-hop for the next 10 years? Let us know in the comments!