In some respects, rap is built on divides. 2 Pac vs. Biggie. East Vs. West. Jay Z Vs. Nas. A Tribe Called Quest Vs. De La Soul. Old School Vs. New School. Kendrick Vs. Drake. It’s these differences in opinion that fuel barber shop debates and online screaming matches that help shape the culture of the genre and create the air of competitiveness that seems to hover over every single song, interview, album, concert and video. Rap is competitive, and these divides are what make it so.
In the new era, there are very few disagreements that are as hotly debated as the opinions of two of the new school’s brightest stars: J. Cole and Big Sean. At some point, these mixtape legends turned mainstream, major label stars became the butts of jokes despite collecting gold and platinum plaques than anybody in this era not named Aubrey. Yes, including Kendrick Lamar.
The criticisms are a constant topic of conversation on the echo chamber that is Twitter. J. Cole is “boring” and Big Sean is “terrible” and both have little to no merit. Despite that, you can rest assured that whenever Cole or Sean do just about anything, the arguments will ensue and the hyperbole will be at an all-time high.
So when Sean came through with two new tracks this week, the reflective “No More Interviews” and the banger “Bounce Back” — featuring some production help from Metro Boomin’ — both tracks drew their share of groans from Sean’s detractors, which is odd since both tracks fully display what makes him such a talent.
On “No More Interviews,” Sean ran through three minutes of flows and introspective material that’s supposed to be the type of stuff that excites rap fans. Sean spends his time hopping between multiple flows, touching on relatable subject matter like his relationship woes and his falling out with a friend, probably Kid Cudi.
Detractors online have yelled about Sean rapping “off-beat” but that just makes you wonder if they know what on beat truly is, because he’s right there in the pocket, constantly ending rhyme patterns on the hard four-count in the middle of bars. There were a few instances where he stretched his lines — but that’s a stylistic choice — and eventually he ended up right back in rhythm. Beyond that technical dispute, Sean also took some not-so-thinly veiled shots at Kendrick, something that’s supposed to excite people, but that’s overlooked because people have their agendas and they have to push them no matter what. It’s like it’s a crime to have a change of heart or admit online that an artist has improved.