EYES ON ATLANTA:
Can Drake Really Be the next jay Z?
By Joshua Robinson
With any topic that is essential to pop culture, there are always debates that demonstrate the level passion that people have about the subject. Whether basketball fans struggle with who is better between Michael Jordan and Lebron James or comic fans argue over who reigns supreme between DC and Marvel, there is a definitive desire to be able to label something or someone as the best, making said thing or person the representation of the topic for all time. Hip-Hop is no different; as a relatively young genre, it has yet to determine who the best truly is. It has been common to see The Notorious B.I.G., Tupac, Jay-Z, Nas, or Eminem helm the crown in various lists for a while, but there has not been any universal agreement on who is the best MC of all time. To agitate that argument even more, opinion has changed over time, amazing new artists have developed as Hip-Hop strays further away from the “Golden Era,” and the youth that used to control Hip-Hop are now middle aged. Today, trying to figure out who is the best of all time is almost a moot point, but how can a true fan of the culture resist?
Perhaps the most consistently declared King of Hip Hop is Jay Z. He’s done more for the culture than probably any other rapper to ever live without being anything less than a commercial juggernaut, with industry records and acclaimed work. In addition, he’s currently worth a little north of $600 million, making him one of Hip-Hop’s richest of all time as well. Any way you spin it, Jay is easily one of the best to ever do it. These days, as Jay Z’s hasn’t been at the forefront of the current scene in Hip-Hop, questions arise as to whether current acts may be falling into Jay’s shoes. All fingers currently point to Drake or away from Drake; regardless, the conversation is certainly centered around him. Drake, in a lot of ways, is similar to Jay, whether people want to admit it or not. While he has publicly made it clear that he has “turned into Jay,” many fans of Hip-Hop are left polarized by such a declaration.
The Jay Z vs Drake debate is a solidified and necessary argument for the culture, and it will probably remain as one of the biggest discussions that Hip-Hop has to offer along with “Top Five- Dead or Alive.” There are many ways that you can compare the two artists, be it classic albums or net worth, but Jay Z and Drake are in two totally different spaces. Jay Z’s music is almost entirely rap centric where Drake’s music is known to juggle singing and rapping. They are also nearly 20 years apart in age, so to compare both of their current positions would be ludicrous. To make the argument as realistic as possible, take into consideration both rappers at 30 years old. See the similarities and differences between 2016 Drake and 2000 Jay Z in table below.
Reasonable Doubt & Vol. 2
Vol. 2... Hard Knock Life
16 Entries (0)
1990 - 2000
Streets Is Watching, Backstage
Chirstión, DJ Clue, Memphis Bleek, Beanie Sigel
#1 Solo Albums
Highest Selling Album
Hot 100 Entries (#1's)
TV & Films
75 Entries (1)
12 Shows & 6 Films
Degrassi, Anchorman 2, +
PARTYNEXTDOOR, Majid Jordan, Roy Woods, dvsn
On paper, the two rap behemoths were undeniable at similar positions when they were 30 years old. Jay Z and Drake were both commercial projects in, with an absurd amount of success. While they were each active for about 10 years, their real influence had been within the last 5 years of their career span. With Roc-A-Fella Records and OVO Sound, Jay Z and Drake had their own record labels respectively. Their number of Grammys was similar as well. The two artists each thrived in separate areas though, and that is key in determining whether Drake is the current version of Hov.
Their differences are obvious. Jay Z only had 2 screen appearances to his name, with one being a string of videos pasted together released by Jay and the other being a documentary featuring Jay. In comparison, it seems as if Drake has been branching out and outdoing Hov in the TV/Film department, but the data is admittedly skewed. Drake’s career began as a child actor in Canada, so it is only logical that he would be able to secure more TV and movie roles than his competition. Those appearances are also what probably led the Canadian star to having a higher net worth at that time than when Jay Z was 30. Also, take into consideration the different levels of success that each of the artists’ labels achieved. OVO Sound is heavily dependent on Drake far more than Roc-A-Fella Records was on Jay Z. OVO Sound has only had 1 album (apart from Drake’s projects) chart in the top 10 in the Billboard 200. The Roc was more well versed, with 5 non-Jay projects charting in the top 10. Another astounding difference between the two that is skewed is the number of hits on the Hot 100. In today’s digital streaming market, it is easier to produce hits because of the ability for each song to be consumed on its own in. Where it would have been strange for Jay Z to release every song from Vol. 2…Hard Knock Life as a single, it has been commonplace since 2015 for huge projects to spawn multiple entries into the Hot 100. However, that same system exists in an era where music sells are at the lowest that they’ve ever been. Between 1990 and 2000 where selling records was at a very high level, it can be interpreted that it was easier to move albums year ago, making the comparison between each artist’s highest selling album more impressive.
Yet, the most important factor in the debate between the two Hip-Hop giants is time. Apart from their distinct styles, achievements, business savvy, number of classic albums (that is another conversation altogether), and critical acclaim, time has become a barrier that makes the debate almost pointless in a sense. Hip-Hop has been fortunate to see Jay Z age 17 into the 47-year-old mogul that he is today; however, it has only been a handful of months since Drake turned 30. As Jay Z has grown into one of Hip Hop’s moguls and most respected rappers of all time, Drake is still at an early point in his career. Furthermore, Jay Z thrived in an era where streaming did not exist, and Drake is currently thriving in an era where streaming is king and music does not sell. Their differences could go on for days, but what makes them similar is their ability to dominate in their own lane, becoming trailblazers in the process. With the research available and the general inability to predict the future, one can either succumb to their opinions and preferences between Jay Z and Drake when deciding that Drake can or can’t be Hov’s successor, or one can just enjoy the music and admit that you simply can’t compare them to each other.
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