Our top 10 J. Cole songs list presents the music of a North Carolina native famed for his magnificent impact on the hip-hop scene. Born in 1985, J. Cole has been active in the hip hop scene for fifteen years so far. The rapper rose to fame after the release of his debut mixtape, The Come Up, in 2007. “Simba,” “Carolina On My Mind,” and “Dead Presidents” are some of the hits from the mixtape.
The EP came four months after J. Cole became the first artist to sign to Jay-Z’s record label Roc Nation. Over his music career, the rapper has established himself as a reputable producer, working on songs by Janet Jackson and Kendrick Lamar. J. Cole remains among the few artists who have scored all number-one albums on the Billboard 200, placing him among artists with many chart-topping albums.
Other artists who have had more than six chart-topping albums include Jay-Z, Madonna, Bruce Springsteen, Elvis Presley, Barbra Streisand, and Garth Brooks. The hip hop star has scored over fifty hits on the Billboard Hot 100. J. Cole revealed that his career path was influenced by other rappers, including Nas, Tupac, Eminem, André 3000, and his mentor Jay-Z.
Cole’s Career Beginnings and Breakthrough
After signing to Roc Nation, J. Cole released his debut mixtape, The Come Up, in 2007. Two years later, the rapper released his sophomore mixtape, The Warm Up, which featured the hit “Lights Please.” Still, under Roc Nation, J. Cole issued another mixtape, Friday Night Lights, in 2010. Some of the reputable names who worked with J. Cole in producing the mixtape include Timbaland, Kanye West, and Bryan-Michael Cox.
In 2011, J. Cole issued his debut LP, Cole World: The Sideline Story. Cole World: The Sideline Story catapulted J. Cole to fame after it topped the Billboard 200. The LP also topped the Billboard Top Rap Albums chart and Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart. Cole World: The Sideline Story received both mainstream and commercial success, achieving a Platinum certification in the US. “Work Out,” “Can’t Get Enough,” and “Nobody’s Perfect” are some of the best J. Cole songs from the LP.
Cole’s Album Releases over the Years
The success of Cole World: The Sideline Story ushered J. Cole to newfound fame as a reputable artist in the hip hop/rap scene. His success story continued with the release of his sophomore LP, Born Sinner, issued in June 2013. Born Sinner saw J. Cole team up with other notable artists, including 50 Cent, Miguel, Jhené Aiko, Amber Coffman, Bas, Kendrick Lamar, and James Fauntleroy.
Born Sinner is home to some of the best J. Cole songs, including “Power Trip,” “She Knows,” “Crooked Smile,” and “Forbidden Fruit.” The LP also topped the Billboard 200 and Billboard Top Rap/Hip-Hop Albums chart. Born Sinner would later become J. Cole’s first LP to achieve double Platinum certification in the US.
In 2014, J. Cole issued his third studio LP, 2014 Forest Hills Drive. The rapper teamed up with Illmind, Willie B, Phonix Beats, and Vinylz in producing the album. 2014 Forest Hills Drive is home to some of the best J. Cole songs, including “Wet Dreamz,” “Love Yourz,” “No Role Modelz,” and “Apparently.” The LP topped the Billboard 200 and Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums charts. In Europe, 2014 Forest Hills Drive managed to rise to the top of the UK R&B Albums chart. The album was later Platinum-certified three times by RIAA in the US.
Exactly two years after he issued 2014 Forest Hills Drive, J. Cole released his fourth LP, 4 Your Eyez Only. The LP also saw the rapper claim the top stop on the Billboard 200 and Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums charts. 4 Your Eyez Only also topped the Canadian Albums chart, achieving a Platinum certification in the US. Some of the musical gems from the LP “Deja Vu” and “Neighbors.”
In 2018, J. Cole continued his musical pursuits with the release of the LP, KOD. KOD is home to some of the best J. Cole songs, including “KOD” and “ATM.” The LP topped the Billboard 200 and Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart. It also made it to the top spot of the UK R&B Albums, Irish Albums, New Zealand Albums, Canadian Albums, and Australian Albums charts. KOD was certified Platinum by RIAA in the US.
Cole’s most recent album release is his sixth LP, The Off-Season. The Off-Season saw J. Cole collaborate with other reputable stars in the hip hop/rap scene, including 6lack, 21 Savage, Bas, Morray, and Lil Baby. Some of the best J. Cole songs from the LP include “My Life,” “The Climb Back,” and “Interlude.” Despite topping several charts, The Off-Season failed to achieve commercial success compared to other albums by J. Cole.
The rapper has also released three extended plays, including Truly Yours in 2013, Truly Yours 2 in 2013, and Lewis Street in 2020. J. Cole is currently working on his seventh LP, The Fall Off.
Cole’s Other Musical Pursuits
Throughout his musical career, the rapper has teamed up with other reputable artists in their releases. Some of the artists who have featured J. Cole as a guest appearance in their songs include B.o.B., Young Chris, Wale, Yo Gotti, Rihanna, Keri Hilson, Travis Barker, Tinie Tempah, DJ Drama, Lil Wayne, Tyga, 6lack, and Anderson .Paak. In 2007, J. Cole teamed up with Ibrahim Hamad in incepting Dreamville Records.
Dreamville Records has been home to some reputable names, including Cozz, Omen, Lute, Bas, Ari Lennox, EarthGang, and JID. As a producer, the rapper has worked with other artists, including Janet Jackson and Kendrick Lamar.
Cole’s Accolades and Legacy
Cole’s musical efforts have seen him earn sixteen nominations for the Grammy Awards. However, he has only won a single Grammy with his collaborative hit with 21 Savage, “A Lot.” The song won the duo a Grammy Award in the Best Rap Song category in 2020. J. Cole is a proud winner of eight BET Hip Hop Awards accolades.
The rapper has also been nominated for multiple awards in the BET Awards MTV Video Music Awards, Billboard Music Awards, and the Soul Train Music Awards. Here we present the ten best J. Cole songs that have helped define him as a legendary hip hop/rap icon of the twenty-first century.
#10 – Work Out
Ushering us to the top 10 J. Cole songs list is the dazzling hit “Work Out.” The song is featured on the LP Cole World: The Sideline Story. “Work Out” samples Kanye West’s hit “The New Workout Plan” and Paula Abdul’s track “Straight Up.” The song topped the Billboard Rhythmic chart. It also made it to the number thirteen spot on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
“Work Out” was issued in honor of the anniversary of his reputable mixtape, The Warm Up. However, “Work Out” received both positive and negative reviews from J. Cole’s fans and other rappers. Nas is among the artists who didn’t like this track. The negative reviews by Nas about “Work Out” saw J. Cole issue the hit “Let Nas Down” in June 2013. Despite the negative criticism, “Work Out” achieved commercial success, receiving a double Platinum certification by RIAA.
#9 – My Life ft. 21 Savage and Morray
“My Life” is one of the best J. Cole songs from the LP, The Off-Season. The song is a collaborative hit featuring rappers 21 Savage and Morray. “My Life” finds the rappers crooning about struggles they have encountered during their formative years in their music career and life in general.
The rappers also narrate the benefits they have reaped, thanks to their endurance. “My Life” received two nominations at the 2022 Grammy Awards ceremony in the Best Rap Song and Best Rap Performance categories. The song topped the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. On the Billboard Hot 100, “My Life” peaked at number two.
#8 – Power Trip ft. Miguel
Our number eight track on the ten best J. Cole songs is the grooving hit “Power Trip.” “Power Trip” is a collaborative hit by J. Cole and the “Adorn” hitmaker Miguel. The song is a lyrical gem penned by J. Cole and Hubert Laws, featured as the lead single to the 2013 LP, Born Sinner.
“Power Trip” marked the duo’s second collaboration, with the first being the track “All I Want Is You” by Miguel. J. Cole revealed that the song has alluded to his love for a lady and hip hop music. “Power Trip” reached number nineteen on the Billboard Hot 100. The song was Platinum-certified in the US by RIAA.
#7 – Wet Dreamz
“Wet Dreamz” is a musical gem from J. Cole’s hit, 2014 Forest Hills Drive. The song finds J. Cole ruminating about his first time with a lady. However, his manager revealed that the song was a fictional story by the rapper and not really based on a true story. “Wet Dreamz” samples the hit “Impeach the President” by The Honey Drippers and Family Circle’s hit “Mariya.”
The song managed to rise to number sixty-one on the Billboard Hot 100. “Wet Dreamz” also made it to number sixteen on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. The song was Platinum-certified four times in the US.
#6 – She Knows
Number six on the top 10 J. Cole songs list is the hit “She Knows.” The song is featured on J. Cole’s 2013 LP, Born Sinner. J. Cole collaborated with Ryan Mattos and Madeline McKenna in writing the song. “She Knows” has its lyrics alluding to the rapper’s infidelity and getting to the realization that his lady probably knows of his cheating habit.
“She Knows” peaked at number ninety on the Billboard Hot 100. On the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart, “She Knows” managed to rise to number twenty-four. The song samples Cults’ hit “Bad Things.” “She Knows” also interpolates the hit “What These Bitches Want” by legendary rapper DMX.
#5 – Deja Vu
4 Your Eyez Only is home to our number five hit on the ten best J. Cole songs list, “Deja vu.” The song was solely penned by J. Cole and produced by the rapper alongside Velous, Vinylz, Boi-1da, and Ron Gilmore. “Deja Vu” finds J. Cole crooning from the standpoint of his late buddy James McMillan Jr.
In the song, he envisages a tête-à-tête with a lady about the kind of guys she falls for. The rapper believes that the lady can find favor in love if she gives her heart to a guy from the town a chance despite his lack of pedigree and fortune. “Deja Vu” has its beat almost similar to Bryson Tiller’s hit “Exchange.” The song managed to rise to the seventh spot on the Billboard Hot 100, achieving a double Platinum certification in the US.
#4 – Kevin’s Heart
“Kevin’s Heart” is one of the best J. Cole songs from J. Cole’s LP, KOD. The song finds the rapper spitting bars from the standpoint of a guy whose love for drugs is immeasurable. This also acts as a metaphor for how the singer is struggling with the urge to stop infidelity. The song’s title references comedian Kevin Hart who at the time had admitted to cheating on his wife.
“Kevin’s Heart” trades to its listeners the mental space of an unfaithful guy. The song peaked at number eight on the Billboard Hot 100. It also managed to rise to the fifth spot on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. “Kevin’s Heart” was Platinum-certified two times in the US.
#3 – Apparently
Our third song on the ten best J. Cole songs is the fantastic hit “Apparently.” The song is among the musical gems from J. Cole’s LP 2014 Forest Hills. Its lyrics showcase the rapper contemplating the mistakes he committed at some point in life, affecting some of his meaningful interactions.
In the hit, the rapper also gets apologetic for putting his mom through tough times earlier in life. “Apparently” was a success, peaking at number fifty-eight on the Billboard 200. The song was Platinum-certified in the US two times. In 2016, “Apparently” was nominated for a Grammy Award in the Best Rap Performance category. However, it lost to Kendrick Lamar’s “Alright.”
#2 – ATM
“ATM” is yet another ravishing hit from the LP, KOD. The song’s title is an acronym for the phrase “Addicted to Money.” J. Cole croons in this spirited hit about his relationship with money. The song finds the rapper ruminating about his fame and its impact on his community and family.
“ATM” topped the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart, rising to the sixth spot on the Billboard Rhythmic chart. The song also made it to number six on the Billboard Hot 100. “ATM” was certified Platinum in the US by RIAA.
#1 – Middle Child
Number one on our top 10 J. Cole songs list is the pulsating hit “Middle Child.” The song was issued on the rapper’s compilation album, Revenge of the Dreamers III, issued in 2019. “Middle Child” was penned by J. Cole, Norman Harris, T-Minus, and Allan Felder. The song finds the rapper talking about how his hip hop career touches both the old and new generations of the music genre.
This makes him the “Middle Child” of the rap scene. “Middle Child” won the Impact Track accolade in the 2019 BET Hip Hop Awards ceremony. The song was also nominated for a Grammy Award in the Best Rap Performance category in 2020. However, it lost to “Racks in the Middle” by Nipsey Hustle, featuring Hit-Boy and Roddy Ricch.
“Middle Child” topped the Billboard Rhythmic chart, rising to the second spot on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. On the Billboard Hot 100, “Middle Child” managed to rise to number four. “Middle Child” is the best-selling hit by J. Cole, achieving a Platinum certification seven times in the US and three times in Australia.
Top 10 J. Cole Songs article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2022
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