J. Cole responds to Kendrick Lamar with ‘7 Minute Drill’ — let’s break it down

OPINION: We’ve been waiting for one of hip-hop’s best rappers to respond to a diss from one of hip-hop’s best artists, and finally, we got action!

J. Cole performs onstage during the 2023 iHeartRadio Music Festival at T-Mobile Arena on September 22, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

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

When I woke up two weeks ago to Kendrick Lamar dissing Drake and J. Cole on the song “Like That” from Metro Boomin and Future’s album, “WE DON’T TRUST YOU,” the 20-something-year-old hip-hop fan inside my soul got excited. In a verse that made almost everybody listen to the song, Kendrick took shots at two of hip-hop’s titans, lampooning the idea of a Rap Big 3 as suggested by J. Cole on “First Person Shooter” — from Drake’s lackluster album “For All The Dogs.” I was ready for Drake — who has been famously embroiled in high-and-low-stakes beefs with Pusha T, Meek Mill, and Common (among others) and has had smoke for a litany of artists — to get competitive and drop some bars but we got some inspirational quotes from the stage and some subs (?) on Instagram. Le sigh. 

J. Cole, on the other hand, I had absolutely no doubt would respond in some way. When? I had no clue, but there’s no way that one of the few rappers viewed for his tremendous lyricism and feature appearances that arguably puts him as one of, if not the, greatest “feature rapper” of all time. Again, arguable, but I’m willing to say it. If J. Cole is on somebody else’s song, I’m RUNNING to listen to it. And it doesn’t matter what he gets on, either. He is batting 1.000 on features. His features on songs from Benny the Butcher to 21 Savage to Summer Walker to Lil’ Yachty to Lil Durk to whoever and wherever else he goes is a trail of flames. His albums, though, leave A LOT to be desired. So much so that I was HOPING he’d hop on somebody else’s record and drop a verse going back at Kung Fu Kenny that put the hip-hop world on notice that if you want smoke, he’s got fire. 

So color me curious but cautious when I woke up to a text message from a homie that said, “Surprise Cole album! So much for bed”. Even if I’m always worried about his albums being excessively mid, his albums are events, so I fired up “Might Delete Later” because Cole has earned my listens. I knew there’d be a diss record and scanned the tracklisting for which one it might be, zeroing in on the final record “7 Minute Drill” since Cole has a tendency towards putting the important record last — and I was right. But before I got to that song, I decided to listen to the rest of the album, and let me just say that I truly appreciate J. Cole following in the tradition of Drake’s album “Honestly, Nevermind,” with a title — “Might Delete Later” — that also serves as a sufficient album review. 

That’s fine though. The most important record on this album is “7 Minute Drill” where J. Cole responds to Kendrick. Over 3-and-a-half minutes and a beat switch, we get a Jay-Z “The Takeover”-esque assessment of Kendrick’s body of work and a warning that Cole might have to go Nino Brown on Kendrick, which is fascinating since on “First Person Shooter” he put himself, Kendrick and Drake on the same status. Now, though, he might have to take his brother out, like Nino had to do Gee Money in “New Jack City.” Well played, Cole. Well played. I rather appreciated that reference as a means of explaining the situation. 

“I’m Nino with this thing, this that New Jack City meme

Yeah, I’m aimin’ at Gee Money, cryin’ tears before I bust at him”

In reference to Kendrick’s catalog, here’s what Cole had to say: 

“Your first shit was classic, your last shit was tragic

Your second shit put niggas to sleep, but they gassed it

Your third shit was massive and that was your prime

I was trailin’ right behind and I just now hit mine

Now I’m front of the line with a comfortable lead

How ironic, soon as I got it, now he want somethin’ with me”

This is what folks are likely going to be talking about … because it’s true. Even the most stan-tastic Kendrick fan should concur with Cole’s read on Kendrick’s catalog. “Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City,” was a classic, and “DAMN” was a monster. But “To Pimp a Butterfly,” while ambitious and worthy of note because it’s pretty singular in its existence as a hip-hop record, is better to talk about than listen to. The same goes for “Mr. Morale and The Big Steppers,” also another ambitious and amazing concept album, but I doubt many people listen to it regularly, if at all. 

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The only quibble I have with his bars is that Cole’s own catalog isn’t exactly that stellar. I’m not even sure he actually has what you could deem a classic under his belt. The closest non-mixtape record would be “2014 Forest Hills Drive,” I think, and that is a reach. “The Off-Season,” his last album, had some great records on it, but classic? Eh. Nothing else truly rises to the level of classic to non-J. Cole stans. I think most of us who don’t believe J. Cole is Rap Jesus, but really like him, are waiting for that album that makes us all understand the hype. But that’s neither here nor there; he’s still one of the GOATS. Point is, J. Cole going at Kendrick’s catalog is kind of odd since, well, Cole’s best work isn’t even on his own albums; as I said before, J. Cole’s features are worth the price of admission, the albums … not so much. 

But again, I’m glad this record exists. We have two rappers of note and skill releasing records in the iron-sharpens-iron kind of way. Cole and Kendrick obviously have respect for one another — how could they not, they’ve worked together since the early days — so this is all hip-hop. J. Cole is undoubtedly one of the best spitters in the game. It’s effortless for him, and I can’t do anything but appreciate and respect that. Hip-hop is better because of J. Cole features. And Kendrick is Kendrick; at this point, who knows what he’ll do next, but when he drops an album we’ll all be talking about it again because that’s what happens with releases. 

I hope we get a few more records back and forth during this before one or the other comes out at the other one’s show in either Los Angeles or Charlotte. In the meantime, I’ll be waiting for J. Cole’s purported final album, “The Fall Off,” like the rest of the hip-hop world. 

Oh, and I guess we’ll keep waiting for Drake to respond, I guess.

Panama Jackson theGrio.com

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.