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Top 10 J. Cole Songs

VO: Matt Campbell
Script Written by Q.V. Hough. Just a dollar and a dream. Join as we count down our picks for the Top 10 J. Cole Songs. For this list, we’ve chosen our entries based on a combination of the artist’s fan favorites and their most commercially successful songs. Special thanks to our users mac121mr0, Calvin Forehand, Kirat Flora, Jeff, nayyark, Lil B The Based God, opg321, Charlie Cusack and TS006 for submitting the idea on our Interactive Suggestion Tool at WatchMojo.comsuggest

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Top 10 J. Cole Songs

Just a dollar and a dream. Join as we count down our picks for the Top 10 J. Cole Songs.

For this list, we’ve chosen our entries based on a combination of the artist’s fan favorites and their most commercially successful songs.

#10: “No Role Modelz”
2014 Forest Hills Drive (2014)

For his third studio album, J. Cole paid respect to fictional TV characters such as Uncle Phil from “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” while showing little respect to the gold-digging women of reality TV. Within this lyrical assault, however, one can find an understanding of who J. Cole once wanted to be and the reality of his true identity. Citing a hope for “that Jada and Will love,” he moves on to explicitly detail the flip side of rap stardom. Appropriately titled, “No Role Modelz” keeps it 100, at least in the sense that J.Cole will never let you fool him three times, and if you do well, it’s gonna rain on you, son.

#9: “Before I’m Gone”
Friday Night Lights (2010)

Much like the late Tupac Shakur, J. Cole has been critically praised for his lyrical gifts and ability to touch on inner-city angst, and with this early mixtape release, he threw pleasantries aside and produced a musical essay about what his legacy may be. In the three free flowing verses of “Before I’m Gone,” Colereacts to bad influences, the police and ultimately those who misinterpret the true meaning of his subject matter. In essence, he’s expounding on the idea that one can be hardened by life yet still have enough intellect to change lives.

#8: “Apparently”
2014 Forest Hills Drive (2014)

Well, apparently J. Cole wanted to play good cop/bad cop with this bi-polar track. Searching deep for his best Bob Marley growl, he expresses his thanks for his mother’s love while touching on themes of freedom, however by the second and final verse, he drops the gushy demeanor for a rapid-fire flow about women playing his “trombone” while noting his sexual prowess. Ok, maybe it’s not exactly on par with the message of Bob Marley, but it’s certainly a song of some type of redemption.

#7: “Lights Please”
Cole World: The Sideline Story (2011)

From an academic point of view, one may label this song as a lyrically deft narrative about the exploration of the female anatomy, but on the real, J.Cole is saying that he likes him some sex. Whether it’s hotel mirrors on the ceiling or the threat of possible blindness, “Lights Please” functions as an ode to the bedroom, a place where J. Cole can experience that transformative feeling of sexual healing. It’s a basic mid-tempo jam with a laid-back style, but it’s Cole’s amusing lyrics that make it worth a listen.

#6: “Let Nas Down”
Born Sinner (2013)

Just as the title conveys, this track is first and foremost an apology to one of J.Cole’s hip-hop idols. The concept came about after Nas dismissed the 2011 single “Work Out,” and out of pure shame, Cole went back to the lab, regrouped and wrote a single which acknowledges the true writer of the Bible - Nas. Sampling Fela Kuti’s “Gentleman,” the track serves a higher purpose beyond the obvious, as it allowed J. Cole to dig a little bit deeper and confront the endless battle between artistic freedom and commercial appeal. Fortunately, Nas approved and teamed up with Cole to let everybody know that he actually made him proud.

#5: “Work Out”
Cole World: The Sideline Story (2011)

Well, here’s the track that let Nas down, and hey, can you blame him given J. Cole’s sample of Paula Abdul’s 1988 hit “Straight Up”? Or maybe it was the additional Kanye West sample. Regardless, this joint gave J. Cole a Billboard hit and further propelled him into the pop culture spotlight. Lyrically, “Work Out” covers the usual rap clichés – bling, status, and sex – but that chorus though, right? Cole took on a Kanye-like snarl for a little extra grit, and yes, the track was designed for mass appeal, but it’s undeniably one of the most catchy singles released by the lyricist.

#4: “I Get Up”
The Warm Up (2009)

Lifestyles of the young, black and restless. For J. Cole’s 2009 mixtape, he served up a sunny chorus of hope while dropping three impassioned verses about jobs, politicians and inner city realities while even finding a way to squeeze in another reference to “The Fresh Prince.” Powered by his own personal experiences, J.Cole channels a bit of Tupac Shakur, and by the end, “I Get Up” represents a wakeup call to upper-class America and all those who get up with little to worry about while choosing to remain aloof to some of America’s dark truths and disparate youths.

#3: “Crooked Smile” feat. TLC
Born Sinner (2013)

For this track, J.Cole sampled Tupac’s “Str8 Ballin” and featured R&B legends TLC for a positive message about personal imperfections. Questioning whether he would be as popular as Eminem or Adele if his skin was a different color, Cole settles on the idea that a “crooked smile” is what makes everybody their own, and there’s no reason to feel insecure about who you are. Just as Tupac once reached out to women with “Brenda’s Got a Baby,” this track highlighted inner beauty while retaining a bit of that J. Cole grit.

#2: “Lost Ones”
Cole World: The Sideline Story (2011)

Every so often, a hip-hop song comes along that instantly connects with listeners on a higher level, and through the raw and desperate tone of “Lost Ones,” J.Cole’s narrative of abortion became an instant classic. Beginning with his own thoughts on how a baby might affect his future, “Lost Ones” turns to the female perspective in verse two, as a pregnant woman’s thoughts are delivered through the voice of J.Cole himself. More of a train-of-thought production reflecting an inner dialogue, the song offers a commentary on the hopes and fears that can either make us self-destruct or begin a new, and hopefully better, life.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.
- “G.O.M.D.”
2014 Forest Hills Drive (2014)

- “Nobody’s Perfect” feat. Missy Elliott
Cole World: The Sideline Story (2011)

- “Born Sinner” feat. @Fauntleroy
Born Sinner (2013)

- “Dreams” feat. Brandon Hines
The Warm Up (2009)

- “Wet Dreamz”
2014 Forest Hills Drive (2014)

#1: “Power Trip” feat. Miguel
Born Sinner (2013)

As Tony Montana famously noted in “Scarface,” “first you get the money, then you get the power, and THEN you get the women.” But as J. Cole demonstrated on this track, all that and a record deal with Jay-Z cannot make one ball out on a power trip, and also become the victim of one. In this case, J.Cole teamed up with R&B star Miguel three years after collaborating on “All I Want Is You,” and broke things down about a woman’s influence. It’s got that classic J. Cole flow, it’s got crossover appeal and most importantly, “Power Trip” is less about poppin’ bottles and more about the human element.

So, do you agree with our selections? What is your favorite J. Cole song? For more mind-blowing Top 10s published daily, be sure to subscribe to

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