Without releasing a solo album since 2018, North Carolina’s J. Cole has managed to stay as relevant as ever off the back of a collaborative Dreamville record and a fistful of classic feature appearances. We took a look at 20 of the best records to come from Cole’s catalog to date.
Before we get into the 20, this list includes only J. Cole solo records – meaning no Dreamville posse-cuts (eg. Sacrifices) or Cole feature-verses (eg. Pretty Little Fears) were considered. This list is purely subjective, selected by Off The Clef.
20. Grown Simba
19. Fire Squad
18. Before I’m Gone
17. January 28th
15. Lights Please
14. Everybody Dies
13. Kevin’s Heart
12. Power Trip
10. Return of Simba
The third installment of Cole’s ‘Simba’ series showcased some of Jermaine’s greatest penmanship to date.
“Cole under pressure, what that make? Diamonds”
9. Wet Dreamz
J. Cole is notoriously a strong, deep story teller, however ‘Wet Dreamz’ took that notion and flipped it on it’s head – with Cole weaving a fun, playful narrative together seamlessly.
On surface level, ‘Neighbours’ is a tongue-in-cheek record, however, it’s anything but, as Cole recounts how systemic racism still affects him personally on a day-to-day basis.
7. A Tale of 2 Citiez
As hard hitting and commanding as you’ll ever hear from the North Carolina rapper.
6. Let Nas Down
The theme of J. Cole’s greatest and most profound records is that they each tell a story – and ‘Let Nas Down’ is the prime example of a personal, behind-close-doors story vibrantly brought to life.
5. 4 Your Eyez Only
As a stand-alone track, ‘4 Your Eyez Only’ isn’t the easiest to digest – although in the context of the album of the same name, it’s one of Cole’s finest pieces of work.
4. Lost Ones
Ahead of it’s time and truly gripping, over a decade on, ‘Lost Ones’ should be considered a hip-hop classic.
3. Be Free
‘Be Free’ was performed by Cole on late night TV in the lead up to the release of ‘2014 Forest Hills Drive’, and while it didn’t land on the project itself, the performance alone was the most powerful of J. Cole’s career.
2. No Role Modelz
‘No Role Modelz’ is catchy, poignant and aging like a fine wine.
1. Love Yourz
‘Love Yourz’ is the defining moment in J. Cole’s career (in our humble opinion).
It’s rare a song connects with such a diverse array of people so heavily, but the penultimate track on ‘2014 Forest Hills Drive’ does exactly that.