The 21 Best J. Cole Features

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The J. Cole feature has been an interesting point of conversation over the years in hip-hop. Despite signing with Roc Nation in 2009, J. Cole was pretty independent with how he handled himself and that mentality seemingly shifted to how he handled appearing on other people’s songs. For years, there were just a few artists he’d collaborated with.

Now though, he’s branched out and collaborated with dozens and dozens of different artists. This change in mindset came because of an epiphany he had. He wanted to get out of his comfort zone. During his Applying Pressure documentary that came out before The Off-Season, he walked people through his process of thought. “Do you really wanna look back and be like ‘you didn’t work with nobody’? You didn’t have no songs with nobody, you just cool with that? No. Okay. So start saying yes to some features”

The result of that has been one of the better feature runs ever seen in the genre. As a result, the conversation has shifted from Cole never appearing on other people’s songs, to deciding which of his recent features are the best. We’ve decided to list out what we think the 20 best J. Cole features are, with songs with 21 Savage, Drake, Lil Wayne, Janet Jackson and more making the cut. Check it out below.

1. "a lot"

One of the misconceptions about J. Cole for years, largely due to him not doing features and not asking for them on his own albums, was that he wasn’t a fan of some of the newer rappers who talked about more surface-level topics. He dispelled some of that myth by borrowing their flows on KOD and also hopping on their tracks. ‘a lot’ with 21 Savage was great because he brought his own flavor to 21’s record, showing support for 6ix9ine when everyone was clowning him. This song also got Cole his only Grammy to date.

2. "American Dream"

When fans saw J. Cole and Kendrick Lamar featured on the same song on Jeezy’s Pressure album, they went berserk as expected. The result was disappointing for many, because Kendrick didn’t have a verse that many could compare to Cole’s. But when the hype died down and you got to appreciate the song for what it was, J. Cole’s verse stood out on the song. His flow changes every few bars and the multisyllabic rhyming is incredible.

3. "Beautiful Bliss"

J. Cole had only been signed to Roc Nation for less than a year when Wale’s Attention Deficit dropped. The pair were both nowhere near the superstars they would become, but this collaboration gets credit for starting a career-long relationship. Despite a respectable effort from Wale, J. Cole takes the cake with some memorable punchlines. “Momma I ain’t done yet, kick back and watch your son rise, sit back and know your son set” he rapped. “Wale, good looking” he said at the end and he knew exactly what he’d done.

4. "Boblo Boat"

When J. Cole had a Royce 5'9" feature as an assignment, he knew he had to deliver. When he was young, the North Carolina rapper used to write up his favorite raps and put them up on his wall and Royce’s bars were amongst them. "Boblo Boat" sees both Royce and Cole reminiscing about their younger days and they paint pictures so well. Cole handles hook duty here too and holds some notes for it.

5. "Green Ranger"

Interestingly, "Green Ranger" wasn't J. Cole’s first attempt at appearing on Lil Wayne's Dedication 4 mixtape. The first was a song that we now know as "Miss America Reprise". JAY-Z heard it and told Cole to keep it, so Cole sent his verse over G. Dep’s "Special Delivery". He killed it with a long verse, but unfortunately, Wayne didn’t like the beat so he half-assed his verse a little. It only made Cole’s verse, where he takes it back to his younger days stand out more though.

6. "Jodeci Freestyle"

This song mostly gets remembered for a big misstep on Cole’s part, which he has since sincerely apologized for. Those lines are muted on the version of the song on Drake’s Care Package, but once you get around that, Cole’s verse is really special here. The occasion of a Drake and Cole collab was massive even in the summer of 2013 when this dropped and both rappers hit a home run. Cole’s verse is like a time capsule of the moment, where he references doing a show in Philly for a dollar, Born Sinner sales projections and competing with Kanye’s Yeezus.

7. "Johnny P’s Caddy"

A lot of people might not have anticipated that Cole would fit on a song with anyone from Griselda, considering their content. Not only did he show up on "Johnny P’s Caddy", but he showed out too. In fact, he used the opportunity of standing next to Benny The Butcher to call out rappers that stretch the truth when it comes to gun and drug bars. It’s still early, but this is a verse of the year candidate. One of our favorite lines? “Einstein on the brink of the theory of relativity, really, no MC equal”.

8. "Just Begun"

This song doesn’t get talked about enough. It sees Cole trade verses with Talib Kweli, Jay Electronica and Mos Def over old school production. That’s a tough crowd to stand out amongst, but Cole does a great job of it. It doesn’t get as much love now because it’s from 2010, but it holds up 12 years later. In 2014, Jay Elect actually performed the record and brought Cole out, which is the only time he’s ever performed his verse.

9. "Knock Tha Hustle (Remix)"

One of the main criticisms of J. Cole over the years has been that he’s boring to a lot of people. But you could never accuse him of that on this song. On the official remix of Cozz’s "Knock Tha Hustle", Cole pours his heart out about harsh upbringings, his brother heading down a bad path and people from his hometown living a hopeless life. The verse sets the scene incredibly well for 2014 Forest Hills Drive.

10. "LONDON"

When they were in the studio together, BIA played J. Cole her song "LONDON" and the one play was all it took for Cole to think about the song for the next month. When she asked if he wanted to hop on it, he was nervous because he didn’t know what to add to it. This kind of genuine care that Cole has for the music he makes is what makes these verses so incredible. As well as being a stellar verse, like BIA, he intersperses a London accent and slang, which makes for some funny moments.

11. "Looking For Trouble"

To have the best verse on a song with Kanye West, Pusha T, Big Sean and CyHi The Prynce is an impressive feat. To do this in 2010 when all you have out is one mixtape is even crazier. This is considered somewhat of a breakout verse for Cole, with some killer lines like, “they say you are what you eat and I still ain’t pussy” and “ironic you been sleeping on the one that you been dreaming ‘bout”. When he toured his first album, Cole opened the show with this verse.

12. "Mama Told Me"

On Omen’s "Mama Told Me" from his Afraid Of Heights mixtape, J. Cole is as honest and introspective as ever. He raps about the complexity of being Black with a White mother, then taking it further and contemplating how hard it must have been for his brother, who is black, but looks white. 

13. "My Boy"

When rappers are having fun on a record, it really comes through to the listener. That’s exactly what happened here with Wale and J. Cole’s "My Boy". The song sounds like something that was birthed organically from a great studio session, but the bars are there too. It’s hard not to switch between a smile and a screwface while listening to the Fayetteville MC on this one.

14. "No Sleeep"

The original version of Janet Jackson’s "No Sleeep" was solo, but for the version that appeared on her 2015 project, Unbreakable, she grabbed a J. Cole verse for an unexpected, but welcomed link up. The song sees J. Cole talk about the contrast between his hectic lifestyle and his girl’s regular life. In the end, they meet in the middle with love that feels like it’s always in that honeymoon phase.

15. Off Deez"

Over the years, East Atlanta rapper J.I.D. has proven to be a great commodity for Dreamville and one of the brightest young hip-hip stars. A couple of years ago, he made our list of the twenty best rappers from the ATL and he’s only showed out since then. "Off Deez" was a big moment for him because Cole hopped on the record. While J.I.D. certainly made an impact on the song, Cole stepped into his lane and held his own too, speeding up his flow and complimenting J.I.D. in the process (“J.I.D. the closest thing to me… Cole and J.I.D., what a tandem”).

16. "Oh Wow… Swerve"

Thoughtful contributions to songs have become the marker of J. Cole verses and that’s exactly what he offers here on the "Oh Wow" portion of this track. He opens his verse contemplating the idea of hell and entertaining the thought of hell on earth and after taking it a few interesting places, he rounds it up by the end talking about the end of the world and how it being good or bad depends on you and your awareness.

17. "Pray"

Since he emerged on the scene with The Warm Up, it was clear that storytelling was one of J. Cole’s biggest strengths as a rapper. That’s exactly what he displays here on The Game’s "Pray", where he speaks of a fling he had with a woman who’s in a rough situation now, so he prays for her.

18. "Pretty Little Fears"

The great thing about J. Cole features is that he has great range. We hear him on something like "Stick" from D-Day: A Gangsta Grillz mixtape and he fits right in with what J.I.D., Kenny Mason and Sheck Wes are doing. Then, he’ll appear on 6LACK’s "Pretty Little Fears" and kill that too. Here, he describes a romantic partner beautifully, likening them to a flower he has to protect. It’s a verse that comes round and ends the song perfectly.

19. "Raggamuffin (Remix)"

From the late 2000s when he first started to make a name for himself, J. Cole was all about making the struggle seem beautiful and giving a voice to the voiceless. With his debut album Cole World: The Sideline Story, he continued to do that, but it was mixed with brags about Rolexes and having 150 women staring at him in the club, skewing the perception for a few somewhat. That’s what his pair of verses on Selah Sue’s "Raggamuffin" are about. He’s open about noticing a change in himself and is poetic in describing it.

20. "Sacrifices"

During the sessions for Dreamville’s Revenge Of The Dreamers III, J. Cole sent out a rare tweet, where he revealed a verse of his had gotten him emotional. “Shed tears tonight writin a verse shit was beautiful.” Of course, over 100 songs got recorded in the sessions, so who knows if we’d ever hear it? Thankfully, "Sacrifices" did make an appearance and it saw Cole pen a tribute to his wife, in turn revealing that they had a child on the way. Cole’s mellow and melodic flow over the acoustic instrumental match up beautifully.

21. "TKO (Remix)"

Kendrick Lamar’s "Control" verse still gets talked about today, nine years after it dropped. That type of impact doesn’t come often and naturally, it had ripple effects amongst rappers. The first rapper that Kendrick mentioned was Cole and he did so with his full name, which many perceived as more disrespectful. Cole and Kendrick were friendly, but that didn’t stop a fiery response from the North Carolina rapper on Justin Timberlake’s "TKO" remix. “In case this is war then I load up on all ammunition” he threatened, with emotion we hadn’t heard from him before.

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