Tomorrow (June 18) marks the biggest hip-hop release date of the year to date, with Kanye West’s Yeezus, J. Cole’s Born Sinner, Mac Miller’s Watching Movies WIth The Sound Off, and Statik Selektah’s Extended Play all getting a ton of buzz, setting up a sales showdown that should rival any that have battled in the past half-decade. The buildup to the date has been a long time in the making, with Statik announcing his release date back in March, and J. Cole unveiling in early April that his sophomore album would drop June 25th. Mac Miller tweeted his June 18th date on May 2nd, which doubled as the same day that Kanye West cryptically tweeted “JUNE EIGHTEEN.”
What followed was eerily similar to an event that consumed the hip-hop world nearly six years ago—J. Cole, feeling the pressure of an impending Kanye-inspired cultural event, moved his release date up a week to directly compete with Yeezus. It was a move that Kanye had used in 2007, bumping up the date of his third album, Graduation, to September 11th in order to go head-to-head with the then-reigning king of New York 50 Cent’s third offering, Curtis. It was a showdown that sparked commentary and (seemingly) light-hearted smack talk from both sides, even earning a face-to-face cover of Rolling Stone and causing 50 to famously say that if Kanye outsold him, he’d retire from rap.
The rest, of course, is history—Kanye outsold 50, eventually winning Best Rap Album at the 2008 Grammys, and 50 didn’t retire, but hasn’t totally been the same since. Now, with both Yeezus and J. Cole’s Born Sinner expecting big debuts—and with both having already leaked to the public—we take a look at both competitions, determine whether or not Born Sinner can emulate Kanye and pull the upset on Yeezus, and decide once and for all: who will be the King of June 18?—Dan Rys (@danrys) & Eric Diep (@E_Diep)