Back in the heyday of rap the comparison game was about artistry, lyrics, and punchlines. On a quick timeline, comparisons included ‘Run DMC vs The Beastie Boys’, ‘Eastcoast vs Westcoast’, ‘Deathrow vs Aftermath’, ‘Biggie vs Tupac’, ’50 Cent vs Ja Rule’, ‘Drake vs J Cole’, and ‘Trap vs Lyrical Rap.’
As capitalism in the music industry progressed and artists graduated from performers to entrepreneurs and venture capitalists, the comparison game became less about what was produced in the studio and more about how you diversified your portfolio.
In this new era of rap moguls, one comparison grew out of collaboration turned into a rivalry. Since the days after their joint collaboration, the 2011 album ‘Watch The Throne’, Kanye West and Jay-Z have been shamelessly compared.
Unfortunately, West has put himself in the position as the lease liked man in entertainment for his ‘egotistical’ approach to every situation, so naturally, in the comparison to Jay-Z he has always come out as the underdog. Whether premeditated or subconsciously, West’s businesses and earnings have been undercut by reporting publications for years making him appear slightly less successful than his counterpart.
Though the latest generation of fans may only know Kanye West and Jay-Z from their days of ‘N— In Paris’, their collaborations date back to 2000 when West began to produce for artists on Roc-A-Fella Records. From there, the duo received recognition for Jay-Z’s 2001 album ‘The Blueprint’ and worked with the likes of Beanie Sigel, Freeway, Cam’ron, Ludacris, Alicia Keys, and Janet Jackson. Together or supported by one another, Jay-Z and Kanye lead two decades of innovations in the world of hip-hop and business until they parted ways.
The public doesn’t know exactly how and when Jay-Z and Kanye West fell out, but there is speculation that a host of events lead to their eventual parting of ways. In his 2018 interview with David Letterman, on his Netflix show ‘My Next Guest Needs No Introduction’, Jay-Z simply said that the two were ‘beyond friends’.
‘That’s my brother,’ Jay-Z told Letterman comparing the feud with West to one with family. ‘My little brother is Kanye and like with a little brother, things happen sometimes.’
With over 30 years of leadership in the industry, Kanye West and Jay-Z have reached a level of enterprise and both individually amass fortunes north of $1 billion. Hopefully, this leveling of the playing field will provide relief of comparison for both men, though Kanye is insistent that his earnings are closer to the $3 billion marks.
While their individual portfolios may be vastly different, prior to 2016 it’s extremely difficult to separate the musical artistry of the two men. Fans can put this debate to rest, though the comparisons of their wives will continue to thrive.