When J. Cole made his New York City debut at S.O.B.'s in March, the North Carolina MC was greeted not only with a warm response from a sell-out crowd, he received an endorsement from one of the most respected lyricists in the game. After Talib Kweli joined the rising rapper onstage for a rendition of the hit "Get By" — Cole revamps Kweli's song on his acclaimed '09 mixtape The Warm Up — the Brooklyn MC dubbed the young star "the future of hip-hop."
That's just an example of the type of love the Fayetteville rapper and top-five finalist for the title of "Hottest Breakthrough MC of 2010" has been getting from hip-hop's best and brightest. After turning heads with The Come Up tape, Cole became the first artist to sign to the Jay-Z-helmed Roc Nation, jumping on a track from Hov's The Blueprint 3, a landmark feat for a rookie MC.
Another hip-hop O.G. who's been impressed by Cole is Bun B, who said he's anticipating the upstart lyricist's first LP. "I'm really curious to see what his debut is gonna sound like because he's making some real strong music right now," Bun B recently told MTV News. "[His single] 'Who Dat' is really killing it and the boy can write."
Although the rapper has yet to drop a major-label album, Bun observed that the MC already has intense fan support on his side. "If you go to a J. Cole show ... he's got a real strong connection. The J. Cole shows are sold-out, everybody in there singing all the lyrics to every song," Bun said. "When you got that, you good."
In addition to getting respect from hip-hop's elder statesmen, Cole is inspiring his peers as well. Fellow breakout MC Drake said he's feeling the Southern lyricist's thoughtful flow.
"I really, really, really like J. Cole. His rhyme structures, the concepts, there's a little bit of pain in his raps. It's music, man. It's deep music," Drake told MTV News.
The Toronto MC added that he can relate to the way Cole strives to create inventive hip-hop. "It's a kid who is trying to draw you into his world and I think that's what it takes in rap right now. You can't just be the generic, [like,] 'Oh, I rap great,' but have nothing to say. J. Cole's really trying to draw people into his world and I respect that a lot because that's my goal, period."
MTV News will be rolling out the top-five candidates for "Hottest Breakthrough MCs of 2010" all week — with the winner being revealed on MTV2's "Sucker Free Summit" on Sunday at noon!