January has finally rolled around, which means it’s the time of year when we hip-hop heads come together to look ahead at our most-anticipated albums of the year. Who’s dropping? When’s it dropping? Will it be an EP or a full-length? What features will make the cut? Who’s behind the production? Will it be a concept album or a variety of songs? Who will emerge into the emerge into the ranks of stardom and/or critical acclaim? All questions we like to ponder when the calendar switches over to a new year.
While Dreamville rapper J.I.D was on his promotional tour for his outstanding 2018 album DiCaprio 2, he told Complex, “We just really competing with TDE—this a whole other thing. We competing with TDE. That’s what needs to be known. Dreamville: we gotta step this shit the fuck up. Them n****s are fire. We gotta step it up—facts.”
This isn’t the first time the TDE vs. Dreamville talk has come to light, but, looking back, I think this could be a crucial bullet-point in the grand scheme of hip-hop—especially with the potential music in 2019.
In terms of hip-hop power right now, I’d have to give the edge to TDE. According to my collective top-10 lists, TDE narrowly outscores Dreamville, 7-4. Anything Kendrick Lamar touches turns to gold, Schoolboy Q, Jay Rock, Ab-Soul and Isaiah Rashad have all solidified themselves in the rap game and SZA has the potential to be a mainstream star. If you asked 10 people what the best label in hip-hop is right now, I think eight or nine would say TDE.
That’s not a knock on Dreamville. I’d say Dreamville has the most potential in hip-hop right now. J.I.D established himself as a potential great with DiCaprio 2 last year, Bas showed a ton of upside with Milky Way and I’m very interested to give Ari Lennox a full listen—and then there’s J. Cole, a top-3 rapper right now and a rightful contender to be in the conversation for one of the best hip-hop artists to ever do it.
I want to see Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole go head-to-head in 2019. Again, not in a Biggie vs. Tupac type of way, but rather a 1-a vs. 1-b, rap battle type of way. Remember when Kendrick dropped that epic “Control” verse (my personal pick for best verse of all-time)? His intent wasn’t malicious. K Dot was simply attempting to elevate the quality expected by his peers. That’s the type of competition I want to see with Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole, TDE and Dreamville.
If this competition should come to fruition, it will have to start with the top dogs, Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole, both of which could be slated to drop albums this year.
Last year, J. Cole came out with KOD, and the final track was titled “1985 (Intro to ‘The Fall Off’).” Cole revealed that the theme for KOD came to him while he was working on The Fall Off, which leads me to believe we’ll see this album in 2019. It was also rumored that Cole may drop a mixtape called The Off Season after he released the song “Album of the Year (Freestyle)” over Nas’ “Oochie Wally” instrumental. Cole also hinted at a potential project from his alter ego kiLL edward, who showed up on KOD. Both of these didn’t come out in 2018, so could we see them in 2019?
In a recent profile in the Los Angeles Times, Kendrick Lamar claimed “he hasn’t been working on a new album, but says that he’s constantly working.” Top Dawg Entertainment CEO Anthony Tiffith also told fans not to get their hopes up for a new K Dot album back in September of last year when he took to Instagram to say, “ATT: KDOT DON’T HAVE A NEW ALBUM COMING NO TIME SOON. So keep playing DAMN until the kid is inspired again.” But Polydor Records, which distributes for Interscope albums in Europe, posted this now-deleted picture to its Instagram story recently. Kendrick’s distribution deal happens to be with Interscope. This is all speculation, but I’m holding out for a new Kendrick album in 2019.
Wouldn’t this be so ironic after all the hype for that joint-project between the two continued to build up after they teased us that one Black Friday back in 2015? Wouldn’t it be crazy if K Dot and Cole flipped the script and went toe-to-toe for hip-hop’s title belt, thus making the entire genre better? Don’t you think these two are destined to matchup against each other? Even their respective albums correlate, in my opinion. good kid, m.A.A.d. city is to 2014 Forest Hills Drive as To Pimp a Butterfly is to 4 Your Eyez Only and DAMN. is to KOD—and not just because they line up sequentially. I think each of these matchups line up stylistically as well. GKMC and FHD put K Dot and Cole, respectively, on the map in the mainstream eye. TPAB and 4YEO both had the least amount of radio potential but may be each rapper’s best album critically. DAMN. and KOD both were influenced by trap beats and stuck to a major theme to tell an overarching story. This can’t be a coincidence, can it? I don’t have the answers, but I can hope and pray for the betterment of hip-hip in 2019.
As for the rest of the labelmates on TDE and Dreamville, Schoolboy Q, SZA, J.I.D and Earthgang are all rumored to be coming out with new music this year. J.I.D just may get what he wished for in the interview with Complex. This may be the year we finally see Dreamville take on hip-hop’s most dominant label, TDE. Can the quality stack up? Again, I wish I had these answers, but I don’t. I will continue to wait patiently like every other rap fan. Let the competition begin.
Now, enjoy these dope videos from some TDE and Dreamville members while we wait to see what will go down in 2019!