culture

The 35 Best J. Cole Lyrics Of All Time

best j cole lyrics mobile
Getty Images

We recently compiled a list of the 25 best J. Cole songs, which features songs from many of his projects and even some lesser-known loosies. Today, we’re back with a list of some of Cole’s best lyrics, which also span the entirety of his professional rapping career.

Check out the list below and let us know if you think we left something out.

1. “Keep grinding, boy, your life can change in one year and even when it’s dark out, the sun is shining somewhere”

‘Premeditated Murder’

When it’s all said and done, no matter how far his career goes, ‘Premeditated Murder’ will hold up as one of the best songs J. Cole ever made. It dropped in 2010 and appeared on Friday Night Lights, and this poetic line from it will always have meaning to millions worldwide.

2. “If they don’t know your dreams then they can’t shoot ‘em down”

‘Too Deep For The Intro’

Another cut from Friday Night Lights, this bar has special meaning to J. Cole fans, who often find themselves with dreams that many feel are out of reach for them. Cole himself has been vocal about never telling anyone in school he rapped. A line that goes perfectly with this one is “if you really believe, ain’t gotta talk about it” from ‘Black Friday’.

3. “Cole under pressure, what that make? Diamonds”

‘Return of Simba’

‘Return of Simba’ arrived just a few weeks before J. Cole was set to put out his debut album after two years of delays and doubters claiming he’d never see a release under Roc Nation. It was a triumphant moment and ended with this line, likely an intentional double entendre but a potential quadruple entendre, with diamonds meaning the actual diamonds that coal makes, the diamonds from the Roc sign, him going diamond and dropping gems.

4. “One thing about the men that’s controlling the pen that write history, they always seem to white-out they sins”

‘BRACKETS’

Cole himself called this his favourite line on the album and it’s hard to disagree, with the obvious play on “white” out and whitewashing history.

5. “Saw my old teacher and she asked how I’m living, you ain’t know my shit dropped, bitch? 9/11”

‘N*ggaz Know’

‘N*ggaz Know’ appears on Truly Yours 3, which came to fans as part of the deluxe edition of Born Sinner, J. Cole’s sophomore album. It’s an underrated cut for Cole, with this line being one of the reasons why. Of course, it’s a raw reference to 9/11, but also, Cole’s debut album dropped in September of 2011. It’s likely also a reference to the top of a Porsche 911.

6. “A young boy from a show down in Hampton told me that my song was the reason he beat cancer, ain’t know what to say, I just froze, little too deep I suppose, but after a year of review, I figured out it wasn’t me, it was you, n*gga, congratulations”

'Roll Call’

This is a true story from very early on in J. Cole’s career, within a year and a half of him signing with JAY-Z. The way J. Cole took time to reflect on the conversation and went out of his way to respond in a song like this is incredible, not to mention giving the boy back the credit.

7. “This next shit is in no way to boast but my city love breakfast ‘cause n*ggas had toast early”

‘Return of Simba’

Another entry from ‘Return of Simba’, this line also has multiple meanings to it. Toast here can mean actual toast, praise and a gun.

8. “Jigga wouldn’t even take my CD when he seen me, two years later, bitch we made it on, on to The Blueprint”

‘God’s Gift’

You only have to see the video of J. Cole performing this song before its release and check the crowd’s reaction to this line to see how much it meant to people.

9. “Pac had a n*gga saying ‘fuck Jigga’, ‘fuck Biggie’, I was only like eleven so forgive me”

‘Villuminati’

The intro to Born Sinner has a lot of lines on it that gives listeners the screwface and this is one. It’s not even that there’s a particular wit to it, it’s just the audacity of the first rapper signed to J. Cole admitting that his favourite rapper, 2Pac, once had him hating Hov.

10. “I be staying out the way but if the beef do come around, could put a M right on your head, you Luigi brother now”

‘9 5 . s o u t h’

The line heard around the world earlier this year when The Off-Season dropped. It is of course a slick reference to Mario having an M on his hat and J. Cole implying he could put a bounty of $1 million on someone’s head who he has an issue with.

11. “I got four brothers, one mother that don’t love us, if they ain’t want us, why the fuck they never wore rubbers?”

03’ Adolescence’

What really makes this line so great is the emotion behind it. J. Cole is talking from his friend’s perspective here and stepping into other people’s shoes is something he does incredibly well.

12. “Always gon’ be a whip that’s better than the one you got, always gon’ be some clothes that’s fresher than the ones you rock, always gon’ be a bitch that’s badder out there on the tours, but you ain’t never gon’ be happy ‘til you love yours”

‘Love Yourz’

Perhaps the truest words that Cole has ever spoken. ‘Love Yourz’ is the track which best embodies the epiphany the Fayetteville rapper had about his life and career in 2014, which was translated onto 2014 Forest Hills Drive.

13. “One thing about your demons, they bound to catch up one day, I’d rather see you stand up and face ‘em than run away, I understand this message is not the coolest to say, but if you down to try it, I know of a better way, meditate”

‘FRIENDS’

I maintain that this song should have been called ‘Medit8’ because it would have contrasted nicely with ‘Motiv8’ which also appeared on KOD, but oh well. The build-up to this ending of the verse is great.

14. “I’m playing daddy to another n*gga daughter, don’t worry, even Jesus never saw his real father”

‘2Face’

This line hits like a haymaker towards the end of ‘2Face’ and speaks to Jesus never seeing God, with Cole likening the situation to the one that so many with absent fathers face worldwide. 

15. “They say you are what you eat and I still ain’t pussy”

‘Looking For Trouble’

Widely regarded as one of Cole’s best verses ever, ‘Looking For Trouble’ also featured Kanye West, Big Sean, CyHi The Prynce and Pusha T, but Cole took the win with multiple witty lines, this play on a cliché being one of them.

16. “This my New Year’s resolution, dog, no more pork in me, I ain’t no Muslim though, Caron Butler, I’m a wizard if you doesn’t know”

‘The Autograph’

This could have been a throwaway line but Cole really went all the way with it, with the homophone of Coran and Q’uran and referencing the Wizards which he played for at the time.

17. “White Range, call that motherfucker Larry Bird”

‘Cost Me A Lot’

A self-explanatory bar likening a white Range Rover to the great NBA Legend Larry Bird, who had a lot of range to his shooting.

18. “I was loved, I was hated, just a n*gga with a dream, I’m a liar, I was honest, I was all of these things, when I’m gone, let ‘em talk, they discussing who I am, when they bury me just know I wasn’t nothing but a man”

‘Farewell’

Picking out one portion of the first verse of this song was tough, because the entire verse is one of the best of J. Cole’s career. This truly sums him up though, as someone who people can relate to despite his fame and success.

19. “Ironic, you been sleeping on the one that you been dreaming ‘bout”

‘Looking For Trouble’

This is the second entry from Cole’s ‘Looking For Trouble’ verse, and the line that he closes the verse out with. Many at the time were calling the rapper Hip-Hop saviour, despite him still being somewhat under the radar and this bar is the perfect summation of that.

20. “They wonder what’s on my mind, what’s lingering in my dome, I tell ‘em 'ain’t nothing wrong', I deal with it on my own”

‘Welcome’

Due to the fact that it’s the first song on Cole’s breakout mixtape The Warm Up, ‘Welcome’ was the first time many heard Cole. He ends the song with a relatable and introspective line about not vocalising his problems, choosing instead to tackle them privately.

21. “Overcame a low life status to blow like Gladys, ahead of my time like I live my whole life backwards”

‘Dead Presidents II’

If you don’t know the story, J. Cole did a ‘Dead Presidents’ freestyle on his 2007 mixtape The Come Upbut someone came up to him telling him he had to go harder on the classic beat. His response was the sequel on The Warm Up, which featured this clever line.

22. "Tell me how I’m supposed to feel what the President spoke, when he ain’t never had to struggle, ain’t never been broke, ain’t even rode through the ghetto, ain’t never been close, trusting this government like trusting the Devil in oath”

‘I Get Up’

To feel the full weight of these lyrics, it’s best to check out the footage of J. Cole in the studio recording this song. He was in his early twenties and nowhere near the star that he is now, which makes them far more powerful.

23. “Believe in God like the sun up in the sky, science can tell us how but it can’t tell us why”

‘The Badness’

A beautifully written line from the North Carolina MC about finding a meaning to life and the answer not being part of science. There’s also the double meaning of sun and son.

24. “Trynna avoid state troopers, that’s the weight watchers, run this dope, sack this cake ‘til they say “got ya”, until the fat lady sing and n*ggas hate Operas, and Oprah hate “n*ggas”, make no mistake that we know the stakes, still we hope to make over eight figures, slim chances”

‘Knock Tha Hustle (Remix)’

Cole’s pair of verses on Cozz’s ‘Knock Tha Hustle’ remix are some of his best work, largely thanks to this great scheme which features a bunch of food puns. He references weight watchers, calls drugs “cake”, throws in a “stake/steak” play on words and ends it with “slim” chances.

25. “Only thing worse than death is a regret-filled coffin, so try before you die or always wonder ‘what if?’”

‘Crunch Time’

As he once put it, “to never try is the ultimate fail”. J. Cole, with his Dreamville label, ‘Dollar & A Dream’ series and Dreamer sneakers, is clearly all for people pursuing their dreams and here on Truly Yourscut ‘Crunch Time’, warns the listener about the dangers of never doing so.

26. “Five iPhones dropped, my n*gga still in the cell”

‘Revenge of the Dreamers’

This is a line that only gets more sobering as time passes, with iPhones dropping almost annually. There’s of course the wordplay for prison cell and cellphone, but also, the song samples Gohan’s Anger Theme, and Cell is of course a Dragon Ball character.

27. “Her new boyfriend is so clever, overheard a couple of her friends telling her he better than me and despite all the spite that builds with each passing night, I can’t help but think they right because he never did cheat”

‘May The Bitter Man Win’

When taken at face value, you might be wondering why these lines made it onto this list at all. J. Cole’s entire verse is not about a woman as framed, but about Hip-Hop, with her new boyfriend being Kendrick Lamar. Listen to it with that in mind and have your mind blown.

28. “Mama, I ain’t done yet, sit back and watch your sun rise, kick back and know your son set”

‘Beautiful Bliss’

Wale’s ‘Beautiful Bliss’ was the first time that many heard of Cole and for them, he made an incredible first impression.

29. “I’m the answer on the low, I’m a cheat sheet for rappers, I grew up round AC to DC adaptors, plug talk, what I’m really saying is a shame but my n*ggas move ‘cane like HBCU Kappas”

‘Album of the Year (Freestyle)’

The ‘Album of the Year’ freestyle sees Cole rapping over Nas’ ‘Oochie Wally’, a timeless beat. This sequence of bars from it is the standout.

30. “No Bill Cosby shit but if n*ggas is sleeping, then fuck ‘em”

‘L.A. Leakers Freestyle’

It took a long time for J. Cole to drop a freestyle with the L.A. Leakers, but when he finally did earlier this year before the release of The Off-Season, it was clear that it was worth the wait.

31. “Cole World coming, later for them bench warmers, bitch I get covers, you don’t even get covered”

‘Funkmaster Flex Freestyle’

Cole showing out at HOT 97 in 2009 with Funkmaster Flex is one of the brighter moments of the early part of his career. He made an impression with Flex, who ended up asking him for more and telling him to “just curse, who cares?” This line was ruthless and is something we wish we heard more of from J. Cole.

32. “They killed Saddam, now I wonder who’s sane? How you balance being Batman, Bruce Wayne? Old chick calling but I’m onto new things, she still a dime but I always lose change”

‘Head Bussa’

‘Head Bussa’ appeared on the second Truly Yours bundle and is a favourite amongst Cole’s bigger fans, but relatively unknown to the masses.

33. “Ducking the Devil, you could say I live my life in limbo”

‘Diamonds’

J. Cole linking up with French Montana and Rick Ross for ‘Diamonds’ in 2012 was a strange pairing, but showed that Cole could do well in their lane with a stellar verse. He ends it with this gem, playing on the Catholic interpretation of Limbo being the place between Hell and Heaven where those not condemned are.

34. “Am I wrong ‘cause I got some dough and copped a couple finer things? G-Shock to Rolex, my how the times have changed”

‘Like It or Love It’

This line comes from a lesser-known J. Cole feature that he did for Tinie Tempah around ten years ago now, a couple of months after Cole World: The Sideline Story dropped. The line is a reflection of life changing for him at the time.

35. “Imagine a world free from pain and we no longer scared at night, far from the crime, the blind leading the blind, we don’t make the primetime ‘til we dying, the New York Times”

‘New York Times’

On his 50 Cent and Bas collaboration ‘New York Times’, Cole imagines an ideal world before acknowledging the harsh reality that black people often only appear in news stories for their deaths and the myth of ‘black-on-black crime’.

Did you like this article?
Thumbs Up
Liked
Thumbs Down
Disliked