"Yeezus" vs. "Born Sinner": Can J. Cole Compete?

by Resita Cox

Kanye West and J. Cole have a new found similarity: June 18th. After confirming Mr. West will release his sixth studio album “Yeezus” on June 18th, Cole decided to push up the release of “Born Sinner,” his sophomore album. And the young artist may be building a bit of competition for Mr. West. Yesterday Cole released the third single from his album, “N***az Know,” and the lyrical demeanor of the single is flawless.

Cole is right. Mr. West is one of the greatest. The man cannot be ignored. He has 21 Grammys and five platinum albums and Cole is displaying immense confidence to even go up against that. But let’s just take a stroll in history for a second. Must we recall how Mr. West brutally massacred (get it?) 50 Cent in album sales in 2007, when both released albums on the same day? “Graduation” sold 957,000 copies in the first six days , while 50 Cent’s “Curtis” came up short at 691,000.

Do not be mistaken; I am not saying that Cole cannot compete with the awarded rapper. He has been recognized by some of the greatest names in hip-hop, including DMX, who said the young rapper was actually ‘saying something’ when he heard him on the radio. Cole is on the road to being one of the greatest — but he isn’t there yet. “Cole World: The Sideline Story” sold 218,000 copies in the first weeks of sales and charted No. 1 on the U.S. Billboard 200. Does this even tip the monstrous block of sales of Kanye? No. Was moving the album date up too big of a challenge for Cole’s album sales? Maybe.

Cole and Mr. West have both previously released two singles from their anticipated albums. Cole’s “Power Trip,” featuring Miguel, peaked at No. 20 on US Billboard Hot 100.

Kanye surprised fans at the “Saturday Night Live” finale a few weeks back with his two new singles ‘New Slaves’ and ‘Black Skinheads.’ So both have been actively creating anticipation in this recreation of the album release showdown.

I’m not sure I would put my sophomore album up against one of the biggest names in fame, but maybe Cole knows something we don’t. He may be dropping the next “Life after Death,” who knows. Here’s a sneaky trick though: Cole already has a jump start in the chart race, after Mr. West decided to restrict album pre-orders to iTunes — for apparently just about one day. But now, nothing: just like with “Watch the Throne,” it’s all about the on-sale date.

Resita Cox is an Awl summer reporter.