J. Cole might have gotten hitched behind our backs recently, but it doesn't change the fact that for a few years there he was completely transparent about his life as a struggling rapper from North Carolina. Yes, we're talking about those mixtape years where J. Cole was fighting for your attention on a World Wide Web that has everything but a shortage of mixtapes.

Cole's three mixtapes were The Come Up, The Warm Up, and Friday Night Lights, released in 2007, 2009, and 2010 respectively. The latter two were released in conjunction with Roc Nation, helping to pave the way for his current state of success including his back-to-back-to-back number one albums. Like many mixtapes from the era, Cole utilized already-familiar instrumentals by the likes of Jay Z, Kanye West, Ghostface Killah, and more to back-up his rhymes. By the time Friday Night Lights came around, Cole used a good bit of his own production, his ace in the hole. Let's revisit those first three mixtapes and remember how J. Cole got to where he is today.