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Wale: The Antithesis of J. Cole

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Wale: The Antithesis of J. Cole

Antithesis: The direct or exact opposite.

Each generation has artists that are perpetually compared to each other and indelibly linked: Grandmaster Flash and The Sugarhill Gang, Tupac and Notorious B.I.G., Jay-Z and Nas. Perhaps no other current artists represent a dichotomy better than Wale and J. Cole. In essence, almost every aspect of these 2010 XXL Freshmen classmates inversely relates to the other’s. They’ve been compared to each other since J. Cole “Renegaded” Wale on his own song (a popular opinion this writer doesn’t agree with), and will continue to be compared to each other for as long as they are making music. I don’t plan on merely pointing out the differences in these two talented artists. I plan on doing much more than that. I aim to analyze and dissect the rationale as to why people support their music. Why would someone buy a J. Cole album? Why would someone buy a Wale album? Why is Wale the antithesis of J. Cole?

Rapping Style

The differences in their rapping styles can pretty much be summed up by listening to the Attention Deficit banger “Beautiful Bliss.”

Wale gave J. Cole his first mainstream debut with a feature verse on “Beautiful Bliss.” J. Cole stated that he felt like he had something to prove, and popular consensus is that he obliterated Wale on his own track. However, this is really just another “Renegade” situation. One rapper (Eminem/Cole) spits very in-your-face, overt punchlines, while the other (Jay-Z/Wale) drops multliple entendre gems that can only be appreciated by taking a closer look.

My punchlines like gut checks -- J. Cole

Everyone recognizes Cole’s wordplay on the first listen. There isn’t much to uncover about lines like “But mama I ain’t done yet/Sit back and watch your son rise/Kick back and know yo son set.” Conversely, a majority of listeners aren’t going to get the beauty of “Fresh out the chair with the clippers like Shaun Living.” Both equally dope, but their brilliance has to be experienced differently. If Cole’s punchlines are like gut checks then Wale’s punchlines are the broken rib you realize you have the next day.

Work Environment

J. Cole works in a bubble by himself: no crew, no associated rappers, no in-house producers. He tries to do everything himself. In fact, 12 out of the 16 songs on Cole World: The Sideline Story were solely produced by Cole. There is certainly something to be said for this, however. He has complete control of the creative process and can craft a beat exactly how he needs it to be. But, he also puts himself at a disadvantage. This type of work environment can make one more susceptible to putting out music that sounds too similar, stale or uninspired. Ultimately, though, competition breeds excellence.

I think we can all agree that since signing to MMG, Wale’s audio output has doubled, if not tripled. With Ross on his side, a studio is most likely immediately accessible at any given moment, making it easier to capitalize when inspiration strikes. Moreover, working in a group atmosphere forces you to compete. You get pushed to improve. You want to be superior to the next person; you want to have the better verse, the better punchline, the better chorus. Wale has certainly benefited from this work environment. He’s also benefited from being around Ross and watching him make hit after hit. The downside, of course, being that when you are around the same people all the time, you begin to subconsciously absorb their mannerisms. You become Rogue without her gloves. People claim Wale has changed his content to fit in with MMG. However, he’s been rapping about weed, grinding, empowering the &$#%#&@!, pop culture and sports since he stepped on the scene. The Luger beats may have replaced the Go-Go samples, but the content remains the same.

Their Attitudes

Both Wale and J. Cole come off as cocky in their songs. However, off wax the two get viewed by bloggers, fans and casual listeners quite differently. Cole is seen as a humble person. His effort to track down Jay-Z and camp outside of a studio for hours in the cold is seen as heroic and not stalker-ish (wish I got a record deal off all the times I’ve hung out sat on in a tree the steps outside a girl’s friend’s drape-less bedroom window house.)

Cole’s ambition is seen as an exemplary tale. The boy from a small town who had big city dreams and did everything he could to make it happen. Oh, no, that’s not archetypal at all. Wale’s ambition, a term he has championed as his own personal credo, often gets interpreted as arrogance. People feel his sense of self-worth is elevated and undeserved. It’s no secret that people from the D.C. area are some of the most salty people on the face of the planet. For Wale to be the premier rapper to rise from the area, it couldn’t have been easy. Thick skin is a necessity. Wale is quick to get defensive, but that’s a natural by-product of growing up where he did and his past failings with Interscope.

Light Skin vs Dark Skin

As a white devil, I’m usually cognizant of The Man’s agenda… I mean, I read the monthly newsletter I get about how He plans on keeping “The Blacks” (his words not mine) down, and promulgate the white ideal of beauty until everyone adopts it as their own. I never really gave this any thought until catching “Undercover Brother” in all its edited glory late night on TV the other week. The Angry Black Man in Khakis scene struck a chord with me. If there is one thing (white) America despises, it’s an Angry Black Man, and Wale gets characterized/seen/viewed as an Angry Black Man. We live in a society where racial ambiguity is the modern marketing trend, and Wale doesn’t fit that mold. Man… mulattoes truly have the best of both worlds. However, at this point, I would like to hand the reigns over to my good friend Catf1sh who is much more of an authority on this issue.

First of all I’d like to thank the homie B-Sizzle for gifting me the opportunity to expound upon this theory I’ve been talking about for some time. And that is, the theory that light skin vs. dark skin black people is a much more “In your face” issue than most believe. Even our conditioning has been conditioned.

I just want to post a disclaimer that some of what I write will be generalizations. There’s no description that applies 100% of the time to every situation; meaning there are exceptions to every rule. You may happen to know someone who falls under the 1% category of occurrences, and good for you. That still doesn’t change the fact that the other 99% exists though. Shoutout to all my Occupiers out there.

Anywho, let’s jump right into it. From the very moment that black people have come to North America there has been a rift between those with a lighter complexion and those with a darker complexion. The “Brown Paper Bag” test if you will. Whether this is the practice of Creole Cajun blacks in the Deep South passing for whites or sororities discriminating against potential applicants based up on their skin tone relative to a brown paper bag, it is perceived as natural to view blacks differently based upon looks. The darker the skin, the more we relate this to “Bad” or “Evil”. This has been proven in various studies as a matter of subconscious racism

Another scenario that comes to mind when I think about the after effects of skin tone is the Chris Brown/Rihanna situation. Chris Brown was seemingly handpicked for superstardom as soon as he burst onto the scene, fulfilling the teenage R&B crooner quota the market had been missing since Sammie, Omarion and Bow Wow were now in their 20’s. He ended up in a “Made for TV” relationship with Rihanna, who was also well on her way to becoming a major player in pop music. One fateful night changed everything after Chris Brown was accused of domestic abuse against Rihanna. He was forced to attend anger management and was viewed as a huge villain all over. He even released an album shortly after this fiasco which fell well under expected sales figures. Chris Brown did a heartfelt tribute to Michael Jackson at the BET Awards and seemingly all was forgiven overnight. He went back to dropping #1 albums, starring in movies, and generally reclaiming his role as the predominant figure in male R&B, along with Trey Songz.

One can’t help but think of how different things would be if Chris Brown had a skin tone closer to that of say Bobby Brown, who endured his own bout with domestic abuse troubles. Bobby Brown was accused of abusing Whitney Houston, one of the greatest female solo artists of all time. His image has still not recovered from that blow. Bobby Brown went from heartthrob to villain and was given no change at image rehabilitation. Whereas Chris Brown is still a media darling, after numerous sexist and misogynistic comments. Chris Brown has been given the freedom to call women &$#%#&@! and hoes again while not missing a commercial step. I wish I could add that kind of Teflon Don cloak to my swagger.

The main benefactor from this whole “Light skin is good, dark skin is bad” situation has to be Drake. Drake is a very talented individual with a hook for crafting some of the best melodies this side of Michael Jackson and Berry Gordy. However, some of his songs walk the very thin line from “Crazy in love” to “Man, this guy is such a creeper”. In fact, they teeter on that border so well that you can’t imagine a dark skin rapper being able to pull off these songs. There’s no way that a rapper that looks like Ace Hood or Meek Mill would be able to pull off a song like “Marvin’s Room”. 50 Cent comes off as incredibly corny when he makes a song like “Best Friend” but Drake can make a “Fall For Your Type” and no one blinks an eye. It’s okay though, it’s cool for light skin rappers to constantly remind you “You don’t need no one else” like on “Sooner Than Later.”

How does this relate to the current question about J. Cole and Wale? It’s pretty simple, actually. J. Cole is viewed as a more relatable artist and a more talented, genuine artist and Wale is viewed as an arrogant, egotistical &$#%#&@! who needed a major cosign from Rick Ross in order to succeed. Can anyone explain to me the difference in ideology between “I got a dollar and a dream” and “Ambition”? Both are about trying to realize your dreams in the face of adversity. But one rapper is shunned for being ambitious while the other is paraded as a symbol of hope for the everyday man. Both rap about the same material. Both have major rapper cosigns. Both are on major labels and were blowing up on the mixtape circuit. It just becomes a matter of subconscious perception, and it rubs people the wrong way for someone who looks like Wale to be screaming “I’m going to make it no matter what it takes”.

I guess it’s symbolic that Bauce’s article started with a comparison to the rhyming styles of Wale and J. Cole, because that represents the only difference between the two rappers in my eyes. One appeals to you in a very direct manner, and you almost feel compelled to root for him. One requires a little more effort to dispel the subconscious notions about him and you feel compelled to root against him, almost out of reflex. You decide who is who.

Why People Support Their Music

Here’s what it boils down to:

People want J. Cole to win; people want Wale to fail.

Is it shade of race? Possibly. Is it affiliations? Maybe. Is it attitude? Could be. Is it musical tastes? No. They make equally dope music, that, at its core, is identical. Being a J. Cole fan and not a Wale fan must be like thinking your identical twin is ugly. There really is no artistic distinction between them. Both are co-signed by Illumanti members of the highest degrees and craft conscious-esque rap songs with the same overarching message.

The masses want J. Cole to win at all costs. They need him to. They need to believe that someone out there had a dream and a vision, did whatever it took to make it happen, and became successful from it. That’s what gives the trash-taker-outer at Long John Silver’s hope of becoming manager. That’s what inspires the dorm room rapper writing rhymes instead of a paper on “France’s role in the American Revolution.” They require his tale to have a happy ending to keep them going in the pursuit of their dream. Life can’t be all a big scam where hard work actually doesn’t pay off, right? What if Cole had flopped? It’d be like telling a nation full of children that Santa doesn’t exist (WHICH WE ALL KNOW HE &$#%#&@! DOES). Be honest with yourself. You bought the album because he’s made dope music in the past, and you wanted him to succeed. That’s the only reason that can be given. That’s the only reason that exists. Here are invalid reasons for why you purchased the album:

  1. A hot, chart-topping radio single leading up to the release.
  2. Everywhere you looked there was a J. Cole verse/feature/contest/advertisement.
  3. Those weekly Any Given Sunday posts.
  4. A mixtape/major project released within 3 months of the album that got you hyped for it.

All four of those reasons listed above are integral for building a buzz for an album, especially a debut album (Big Sean followed these to a T). The Fayettenam Don had none, yet he sold many, many copies.

Wale has all four. To be honest, I was on the verge of filing Wale away into the same mental folder that Charles Hamilton and Consequence currently occupy, and then he dropped The Eleven One Eleven Theory and changed my mind. It seemed like in the few months leading up to the album, he dropped a freestyle or gave us a leaked song every week. I couldn’t hop on Twitter without seeing something Wale related trending. He started to win me and others back over.

You know why you bought or will buy Ambition? Because of Wale’s music. Not because you want to be apart of something bigger than yourself. Not because you need the comfort of a fairy tale ending. Not because you want to live vicariously through him. Not even because you necessarily like him. You’ll ultimately give him your money because his music eclipses your spite or indifference for him. That’s what music does; it transcends. So, let that man cook. Wale be frying-son.

http://rapgenius.com/posts/Wale-the-antithesis-of-j-cole

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JNixon
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SUPER interesting read, but

SUPER interesting read, but JCole definitely killed Wale's verse on Beautiful Bliss. That verse was my 1st time ever hearing of JCole or hearing him rap, but he killed it and it made me pay attention to him. It's not a competition really because at the end of the day they are on the same song and have to have some kind of relationship that extends past or just short of competitiveness between each other, but I think it was a good look for both. That was the best song on Attention Deficit arguably (it was to me, that or "Diary") but it really made Cole's name stick in my head. Mission accomplished, I guess.

OrangeJuiceJones
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To me, J. Cole and Wale are

To me, J. Cole and Wale are kinda like ice cream and cake. They're both great and can easily be enjoyed together; but they aren't that identical, thus making it difficult to compare the two.

LeroyJenkins
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John Cena over everything

John Cena over everything

ProudGrandpa
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honestly

Never heard of Wale.

Only heard of J-Cole from this site.

You gotta remember, I live in a Midwestern suburb. I have a total of two black kids in all my classes.

goeoovoaoosa
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great

great

afa323233
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John Cena over everything

John Cena over everything

afa323233
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To me, J. Cole and Wale are

To me, J. Cole and Wale are kinda like ice cream and cake. They're both great and can easily be enjoyed together; but they aren't that identical, thus making it difficult to compare the two.

afa323233
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Never heard of Wale.

Never heard of Wale.

sovikowno
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wowWWWWWWWWWWW

wowWWWWWWWWWWW

scode85
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Light Skin vs Dark Skin

Light Skin vs Dark Skin

scode85
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People want J. Cole to win;

People want J. Cole to win; people want Wale to fail.

scode85
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Only heard of J-Cole from

Only heard of J-Cole from this site.

scode85
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You gotta remember, I live in

You gotta remember, I live in a Midwestern suburb. I have a total of two black kids in all my classes.

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