Review: J. Cole And Wale Grapple For Supremacy On ‘Winter Schemes’

For those jaded, grizzled, curmudgeons that have tagged this current breed of rhymers as flash-obsessed characters more concerned with reaching the rewards of opulent largess than dropping rewind-worthy verses, this is your fix.

“Winter Schemes,” a combustible team-up featuring J. Cole and Wale, doesn’t attempt to mold that trendy chart-seeking-gentleman’s club hybrid sweet spot. This is a pure, unadulterated MC showcase; a song that contains a myriad of stand-out quotables, can-you-top-this-shit moments, and just enough heart that gives some credence to the continued hype surrounding these two ’80’s babies.

Cole, who currently boasts one of the best-selling albums of the year with his No. 2 debut Born Sinner, utilizes his image as rap’s everyman, raising the curtain on the sobering realities of young stardom. “I’m sorry, brand new Ferrari/But really though I’m fronting/Don’t really mind discussing/That Bugatti in that Beyonce video was just for stuntin’,” he admits of his close-up in a high profile clip featuring his boss’ better half. But the self-effacing documentation goes even further when Cole admits: “Scared to mash the gas/Cause if I fucked around and crashed that would have been my ass/That whip is ’bout a million cash/And dog, I just got rich…”

Meanwhile, the hit-making Wale (when it comes to omnipresent radio singles, the kid is pretty much on a winning streak) takes an entirely different path. By sharing his perspective on just how hitting the booth with arguably today’s biggest pop star can open an artist up to higher levels of fame, he exposes his own struggles to extract more substance out of the deal. “Got me a Rihanna feature, ya’ll should see my demographic… I’m tryna shed a bunch a light in a country where niggas follow models and hype,” he cuts before blacking out in a labyrinth rhyme pattern highlighted by the artful boast, “You niggas think too slow/You Pikachu but I’m Picasso.”

Who comes out on top? It’s a needless question. With the formidable Jake One on the production boards commanding this crisp, new age boom-bap presentation, it makes you think of some of the criticism J. Cole and Wale have had to endure so far in their young careers. The talk is that the North Carolina spitter is as exciting as a glass of milk and the Washington D.C. native is a self-bloated asshole. Yet such talk is drowned out by the only thing that really matters: talent.—Keith Murphy (@murphdogg29)