Jump to FM.tv

Playlist

15 of J. Cole's Best Deep Cuts

Celebrate the king of Fayetteville with these often-overlooked album cuts, mixtape bangers and one-off rarities

1 / 15

"Just to Get By"

J. Cole's never been shy about Kanye West's influence on him, and rapping over 'Ye's Nina Simone–sampling beat for Talib Kweli's 2003 banger was a stroke of genius and a neon highlight for his second mixtape, The Warm Up.

2 / 15

"Back to the Topic (Freestyle)"

On his final pre–debut album mixtape, Friday Night Lights, a ragged-voiced Cole defiantly barrels from the first second to the last—over the beat from Cassie and Puff Daddy's "Must Be Love." Cole's crate-digging is second to none.

3 / 15

"Can I Holla At Ya"

For the first part of Truly Yours EP trilogy, Cole kicked things off with a little workout over the Miseducation of Lauryn Hill staple "To Zion." Result: Flawless.

4 / 15

"Cole Summer"

More Jermaine x L. Boogie! The Truly Yours 2 EP opener sees Cole sliding over Lauryn's "Nothing Even Matters"; it's too good to exist.

5 / 15

"Lost Ones"

One of the best songs of Cole's career starting floating around, solo, two years before it showed up on his debut album, Cole World: The Sideline Story. It's a couple's difficult abortion argument told from his and her perspectives. The production's divine, the bars are beautiful, but the emotions spilling out are just so unforgettably affecting.

6 / 15

"Disgusting"

Lyrically silly and borderline obnoxious, the proto–DJ Mustard beat stands entirely alone in Cole's discography, resulting in a grimy banger that's a jewel in any super-fan's miscellaneous iTunes collection.

7 / 15

"Carolina on My Mind" feat. Deacon

On his debut mixtape, Cole was bold enough and dope enough to chipmunk-ify Curtis Mayfield's “We the People Who Are Darker Than Blue” for a soulful ode to his home state.

8 / 15

"Be (Freestyle)"

Cole's Any Given Sunday series—weekly free tracks preceding his first album—yielded this loose flow over a Kanye-produced Common classic from '05.

9 / 15

"Grown Simba"

"Simba," the first song on the first Cole mixtape, The Come Up, is memorable for sure. But the follow-up's "Grown Simba" takes the Disney-referencing origin story and boosts the production value, wordplay and panache.

10 / 15

"Trouble"

Like Born Sinner's title track, this mid-album jam leans heavy on the gospel vibes—although it's an ominous storm cloud compared to the other song's hopeful ray of light.

11 / 15

"Home for the Holidays"

A horn-sprinkled Christmas song that plays well year-round. The fact Cole can toss off songs like this and never use them on an album has always been astonishing. "Home for the Holidays" reportedly features Beyoncé vocals, too. 

12 / 15

"Niggaz Know"

The stutter-step flow over this Truly Yours 3 EP cut (later a Born Sinner bonus song) is ridiculously focused and tight.

13 / 15

"Return of Simba"

The third installment in the "Simba" trilogy straight-up samples The Lion King before dropping into a monster beat with ferocious Cole bars.

14 / 15

"Losing My Balance"

Sure, why not end a mixtape with narratively masterful piece set to a jazzy, honey-voiced Portugese strummer's song? Shoutout to Sara Tavares.

15 / 15

"Nobody's Perfect"

Scoring the very choosy, frequently MIA Missy Elliott for the debut album was a big move, but having the track be this essential was huge.

User Comments

Advertisement

Photo of the day

HOLLYWOOD, CA - APRIL 30: NSYNC is honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on April 30, 2018 in Hollywood, Californ

Apr 30: *NSYNC 4EVER

It’s been a while since the guys of *NSYNC reunited. Since their epic onstage reunion at the 2013 MTV VMAs and JC’s 40th birthday, the guys have been doing their own thing, until today! Justin, JC, Joey, Lance and Chris got together to celebrate their new star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and as if the day couldn’t get any better, JC reminds us that tomorrow it’s gonna be MAY.

Advertisement