This article originally appeared on Noisey Canada.
Ed Sheeran's latest album Divide landed upon us mere mortals. Throughout this 16-song epic journey, he delivers some of his best rapping yet. Ed has a long history of rapping on his own albums and performing rap covers with a guitar in hand at shows. Consider the 2012 collaborative album he did with Yelawolf, The Slumdon Bridge, and the feature he had with The Game on "Freakshow." Divide's standout rap tracks include "Eraser," "Galway Girl," "New Man," and, arguably although it could be called "rap singing," "Barcelona." This is Ed's most conscious and enlightened hip-hop yet. This is no surprise, considering how the young emcee recently revealed on The Breakfast Club his favourite rappers, including the one, the only J. Cole.
The man born Jermaine Lamarr Cole is, of course, is known for his lyrical mastery. Legend has it, J. Cole is so woke, he is legally considered to be an alarm clock. J. Cole is a producer and instrumentalist much like Sheeran, and they both sling deeply philosophical lines and stunning similes about their penises. That being said, it's only natural to compare the skills of Ed Sheeran and J. Cole to finally decide who is the better rapper.
As a result, we've provided an empirical analysis that compares and breaks down the two emcees' best lyrics in four categories that comprise all great hip-hop: relationships, the struggle, sexy stuff and swag. Only one Rap God—outside of Eminem, the best of them all—will survive.
Round 1: Relationships
Real rappers talk about their relationships. This goes deeper than physical connections—they open themselves up on an emotional level. For this category, we will compare Ed Sheeran's "New Man" to J. Cole's "Can't Get Enough," both of which show them at their most sensitive.
Ed Sheeran - "New Man"
This song is about Ed Sheeran being dumped and learning about his ex's new guy. This new guy has his "eyebrows plucked and his arsehole bleached" and, most damning of all, "owns every single Ministry CD." We're actually pretty sure Ed Sheeran made this song by putting some guitar over a real life voicemail he once left. "New Man" hits peak romance right here:
Let me remind you of the days when you used to hold my hand
And when we sipped champagne out of cider cans
I guess if you were Lois Lane, I wasn't Superman, just a young boy trying to be loved
So let me give it to you
He's so unthreatening and vulnerable!
J. Cole - "Can't Get Enough"
J. Cole is a master balladier on "Can't Get Enough" from Cole World: The Sideline Story. Shakespeare, please bow down to the greatest. Exhibit A:
I hate to get the seats in the Benz wet
But that's how good your ass is
Make an old man get his glasses, make Wesley pay his taxes
Then follow your moves all week on Twitter
Probably make a gay n***a reconsider
Swoon. That is full-back-tattoo worthy material. To be honest, these verses could be wedding vows.
Winner: J. Cole
Round 2: The Struggle
"The struggle" is the journey one takes to get out of harsh reality and into the limelight. As Nas once said, "Turnin' nothin' into somethin' is God work, and you get nothin' without struggle and hard work." "Eraser" by noted struggle rapper Ed Sheeran and J. Cole's "Nobody's Perfect" are both God work.
Ed Sheeran - "Eraser"
Ed Sheeran has seen some shit, and he pulls no punches on "Eraser." Everything from drinking "whiskey" and having "smoke" in his lungs, this man is out of control. Nothing captures his suffering like this fire he spits:
I need to get in the right mind and clear myself up
Instead, I look in the mirror, questioning what I've become
Guess it's a stereotypical day, for someone like me
Without a nine to five job or a uni degree
To be caught up in the trappings of the industry
Show me the locked doors I'll find another use for the key, and you'll see
Very likely, his reference to "key" here could mean a key for a "locked door," or it could be a metaphor… for life, if you think about it. Really think about it. Damn, Ed.
J. Cole - "Nobody's Perfect"
Take a deep breath before you read this single line of pure genius:
Cole heatin' up like that leftover lasagna
J. Cole, a master of the craft (dinner), compares getting out of the struggle to warming up lasagna from the day before. Allow that word play to properly melt upon your mortal brain for a moment. Careful. This cheese is molten. Lasagna is a carefully layered dish, and so is J. Cole. Still, Ed Sheeran wins this category. He's too real.
Winner: Ed Sheeran
Round 3: Sex
You ain't hip-hop unless you are making constant sex. The greatest rappers have sex appeal in body, mind, and verse. Ed's "Galway Girl" contrasted with J. Cole's hypersexual "Never Told" is a battle for the ages.
Ed Sheeran - "Galway Girl"
At first glance, Ed Sheeran is rapping about Celtic things on "Galway Girl." I'm not entirely sure what some of these words mean, but they sound sexy:
You know she beat me at darts and then she beat me at pool
And then she kissed me like there was nobody else in the room
As last orders were called, was when she stood on the stool
After dancing to Kaleigh, singing to trad tunes
I never heard Carrickfergus ever sung so sweet
Carrickfergus. Nice, bro.
J. Cole - "Never Told"
More flames from Cole World: The Sideline Story. Buckle up, it's about to get sensual in these verses:
One night stands, no best man, no bridesmaids or reverends
Cause Wolverine's depressed and don't wanna be your ex-man
Cause Cupid aims and throw the darts, there go the sparks and broken hearts
Who wanna build Noah's Ark just to have that shit torn apart?
"Cause Wolverine's depressed and don't wanna be your ex-man." That's how you X-Men pun, ladies and gentlemen. Your heart would have to be made of adamantium to not ignite from that reference, which instantly conjures images of shirtless Hugh Jackman. This round is ultimately a tie.
Round 4: Swag
Rap stars drip with confidence. Swag is so important in hip-hop, P Diddy once changed his name to Swag. The "swag" category measures how cool each rapper is. Ed's "The Man" and J. Cole's "Rise and Shine" are so boss they make Rick Ross seem like Napoleon Dynamite by comparison.
Ed Sheeran - "The Man"
"The Man" from 2014's x reveals a more cocky, angier Ed Sheeran. He's dangerous. How does Ed deal with the women who ignored him before he went on to dominate the hip-hop charts? Pure coldness:
But when I broke the industry
That's when I broke your heart
I was supposed to chart and celebrate
But good things are over fast
I know it's hard to deal with and see this
You can practically see Ed flicking a cool toothpick hanging from his lip when he raps this.
J. Cole - "Rise and Shine"
Jermaine Lamarr Cole doesn't mess around. The world is a rough place and you need to stay alert and sometimes even be a little bit mean. Check out this ice he drops on "Rise and Shine":
Get on your job lil mane, this ain't Saturday
We in two different lanes, you can't navigate
We in two different games, you playin' patty cake
Nobody plays patty cake on J. Cole and gets away with it. This round is a tie, making the final score a draw.
Winner: The rap game
Turns out Ed Sheeran and J. Cole are equally matched at rapping, given the indisputable proof from this scientific study. While J. Cole is a master of relationship verses, Ed Sheeran expresses his struggles more articulately. The two are equally matched as sexy symbols and in their swag. This leads us to conclude there must be a significant overlap of Ed Sheeran and J. Cole fans—also known as ColeSheds. The existence of ColeSheds is strictly hypothetical at this time. Observing them in nature would be an important breakthrough in the music community. But that is a topic for future investigation. In the meantime, we can only hope for a collaboration album since that other Kendrick guy went pop.
Devin Pacholik is a ColeShed. Follow him on Twitter.