The day after Thanksgiving, flocks of Christmas shoppers swarmed retail stores for the annual Black Friday frenzy to find the best sales and promotions of the year. This tradition existed only in the medium of retail until last Friday, when the creme de la creme of hip-hop granted fans a two-for-one special by trading beats and releasing freestyles hot enough to heat up Thanksgiving leftovers.
The two accomplished names in hip-hop, who are also great friends, J. Cole and Kendrick Lamar, surprised fans by taking to Twitter on Black Friday. The two simultaneously posted links of one another’s freestyles, which they appropriately titled “Black Friday.” Not only did the freestyles share the same name, but each artist featured the other’s beats from past albums.
Kendrick Lamar took on J. Cole’s “A Tale of 2 Citiez” from his “2014 Forest Hills Drive,” and Cole took on Lamar’s “Alright” hit single from his album “To Pimp A Butterfly.”
Before either rappers saw the limelight, they formed a friendship that’s flourished through the years along with their success in the industry. Both Lamar and Cole have hinted about working on a joint album since 2012, but that idea has remained only a rumor. With this dual release, the two have ignited a frenzy in the hip-hop community, and speculations are high. This dual release was a Black Friday special offered by TDE and Dreamville records, Lamar and Cole’s respective record labels, according to Dreamville.com.
Even though the two are great pals, that does not stop the competitive atmosphere between them and debate among fans over who is the better emcee. The “Black Friday” freestyles present fans with the perfect opportunity to compare hip-hop’s favorite rappers in a friendly battle where neither artist disappoints. Lamar’s fiery flow might have won him this round, but Cole’s freestyle is what got fans most excited about possible future projects.
The haunting repetitive bells on “A Tale of 2 Citiez” sets the mood for Lamar’s freestyle. Lamar takes listeners on a fierce, almost four-minute journey in his freestyle, filling it with intricate verses, witty wordplay, diverse flow and changing his tempo as he speeds up and slows down rhymes. Lamar touches on his years as an amateur rapper and how far he’s come with the lyrics: “Career damaging verses, meditating with candles lit. I like my raps extra prolific, since freestyling on the lunch tables and park benches.”
He talks a lot about the industry and “competition” that’s not really competition: “And now we look at the competition as quick submission.” Lamar mentions his decision to support Kanye West for president and his disappointment in 2Pac’s absence on Billboard’s 10 Greatest Rappers of All Time, while he himself landed the ninth spot, saying, “Billboard list need 2Pac, but number nine makes sure he lives on.”
Towards the end of the freestyle, Lamar snaps, dropping ceaseless and tightly-bound bars at a rapid speed, and displaying his bar-none skills as a rapper. With this, he cements his place on the throne as the best West Coast rapper in the game right now.
J. Cole’s freestyle starts off on a similar route by establishing his status and how much he’s grown as a rapper: “I don’t need a rollie on to know I’m getting older. Dreamville going way up like a floater, couple hands out like I owe them n****s, where was you when the Civic was getting towed my n****? No snakes in the grass cause I mowed it.” Cole is referring back to a previous track, “Land of Snakes” off his sophomore album, “Born Sinners.” He reflects on occasions where people, referred to as “snakes,” tried to take advantage of him for their own personal gain, and he symbolically removes them out of his life by “mowing the lawn.”
He then jumps into a hook, singing and repeatedly asking the listener what they know of his “dreams” and “pains” on the “rollercoaster ride” of fame, and self doubt that he’s had to overcome. In the second verse, he raps, “I sold out the Garden, I should play for the Knicks. Took a couple minutes and I sold out the Staples, a n**** gettin’ cream like an old-ass Laker.” Cole is embracing his ego by playfully taking shots at basketball legend Kobe Bryant, who recently announced his plan to retire after this season.
Throughout the song, J. Cole flawlessly switches up his flow using a juxtaposition of words and allegorical rhymes, but the most noteworthy when he says, “When you and K. Dot (Kendrick Lamar) s*** dropping? Never, they can’t handle two black n****s this clever but this February, bet s*** get scary when I f*** around and drop … (Censor tone).” Cole implies that their joint album will “never” be released, but then teases a new project to be dropped in February when the censor tone abruptly interrupts him, leaving fans in a daze.
The question here is; are fans finally going to get a joint album, or were these two heavyweights just sparring in the ring for fun? Nothing is for certain, but all fans can do now is anxiously wait for February 2016.