Coach K said Jeezy was more relevant than Jay-Z in the South. He might be right, but the conversation needs context.

OPINION: Jay-Z has long been one of hip-hop’s most popular, bankable stars but in the South, many other artists started to matter more. 

Rappers Young Jeezy and Jay Z performs onstage during Power 105.1's "Powerhouse 2005: Operation Takeover" at the Continental Airlines Arena on October 27, 2005 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Scott Gries/Getty Images for Universal Music)

Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.

I love a good hot take. I live for them. I drop them. I view myself as a hot take maven; I tried to put that as my industry on LinkedIn but it doesn’t exist yet. It should. Hot takes make the world go ‘round. Here’s the thing: All hot takes aren’t created equal. Some are asinine, nonsensical skullduggery intended to incite riots and scare babies. Some, though, make you think. They make you ponder. They implore you to consider an idea you hadn’t considered before or, at least, start a conversation that gets really exciting for an hour or so.

Such is the case with a take from one Coach K, one of the co-founders of Atlanta’s Quality Control, home to artists like Cardi B, City Girls, Lil Yachty and Lil Baby, among others. Migos is also a QC act, but I have no idea if that’s still a thing or not. Anywho, the point here is that Coach K is a person of importance in hip-hop and especially in the South. He is also the former manager of Jeezy (formerly Young Jeezy; he’s getting older now) and it is in that role where his expertise, presence and experience resulted in a hot take for consideration. 

While on the “Business Untitled” podcast, Coach K was asked by one of the hosts when he knew that Jeezy was, essentially, that dude and Coach K acknowledged how huge Jeezy was by pointing out (hot take forthcoming) that Jeezy was not only bigger than Migos (who were huge) but more relevant than Jay-Z, especially in the South. Coach K knew that New Yorkers would take issue with such a statement but stood on business, pointing out that, at one point — I’m assuming we’re talking like post-2008 when Migos dropped — Jeezy had the ears of both New York and the South. As you can imagine, there is some pushback but they eventually move on.

I have not moved on. 

To be clear, Coach K is not the first person to make a statement about Jay-Z’s love (or whatever) in the South. Boosie made a claim in July that he is more respected in the South than Jay-Z. In February, Big Gipp from Goodie Mob said that artists like 50 Cent and DMX were bigger than Jay in the South at one point. If you’re bored you can find any argument you want on X/Twitter about who is more popular than Jay-Z and when. When you’re considered one of the GOAT artists (and still alive), this is par the course. 

It’s an interesting, if not exhausting, conversation, though. I think we can all agree that Jay-Z is one of the most popular, bankable, relevant hip-hop artists of all time. If he wasn’t, he wouldn’t be used to set the bar for other artists. Jay’s album run, singles run, business run and even life run are all quite impressive. He’s Jay-Z for goodness sake. But are those other artists ever more relevant than Jay-Z? That’s a good question. 

I think the answer is probably an easy yes. But it needs context AND is qualified. Jeezy is indisputably one of the biggest artists to come out of the South. But so is T.I. And Gucci Mane. And my goodness, Lil Wayne. And Rick Ross. And André 3000 and Big Boi. And Juvenile. I think you could make a pretty compelling argument that, at one point or another, all of those artists were more relevant than Jay-Z. Especially guys like Wayne and T.I. who had epic runs where they were in conversations about their GOAT rapper status. There was a time when Gucci Mane was the clear king of Atlanta, which, at one point, made you the king of the South. From album sales to influence to impact, most of those artists have times when they were indisputably on top of the mountain. 

Here’s the thing though. Jay’s heyday doesn’t ever really overlap with any of theirs. When most of the artists on that list came into their own, Jay was on his retirement tour, if not already retired. He released albums, none of which were that good, that weren’t quite in the same vein as what was popular at the time. Lil Wayne arguably had the hip-hop (and pop world) really in his hand for years with his mixtape run. It wasn’t really until Jay-Z and Kanye released “Watch the Throne” in 2011 that Jay-Z felt … back. And even then, I’m not sure that Jay-Z was more “relevant” so to speak than even Kanye. But the fact that Jay-Z could be considered a relevant artist in 2011 when his first major label album, the classic “Reasonable Doubt,” came out in 1996 highlights how crazy of a career he’s had. 

So to say that in 2008 or even later that Jeezy was more relevant than Jay-Z, especially in the South, makes total sense to me. He was. But that is in no way shape or form a knock on Jay. Jay-Z, by that point, was starting to hover above the entire hip-hop conversation. His moves and forays into the business world were the things all of those artists, who could, started to emulate. Jay might not have been as relevant musically, but as an entity, a “business,” man, Jay’s relevance couldn’t have been higher. 

In the South – a region that, until recent history, has never been given its hip-hop due — the artists that folks used as North Stars weren’t always from New York, especially when we had artists that displayed how successful you could be coming from the South, like Jeezy, T.I., the Geto Boys, Outkast and Goodie Mob, etc. 

So Coach K is right; Jeezy was more relevant than Jay-Z in the South, especially post-2003 when Jay was flirting with and annoying us with his retirement talk. But as he said, Jay was also probably more popular in general as an artist. And frankly, for both of them — Jeezy and Jay, who are friends — that’s mighty fine company to be in: superstars who maintain relevance even today.

Panama Jackson

Panama Jackson is a columnist at theGrio. He writes very Black things, drinks very brown liquors, and is pretty fly for a light guy. His biggest accomplishment to date coincides with his Blackest accomplishment to date in that he received a phone call from Oprah Winfrey after she read one of his pieces (biggest), but he didn’t answer the phone because the caller ID said: “Unknown” (Blackest).

Make sure you check out the Dear Culture podcast every Thursday on theGrio’s Black Podcast Network, where I’ll be hosting some of the Blackest conversations known to humankind. You might not leave the convo with an afro, but you’ll definitely be looking for your Afro Sheen! Listen to Dear Culture on TheGrio’s app; download it here.