Jermaine Lamarr Cole is a different breed. Ever since he signed to Jay-Z’s Roc Nation imprint in 2009, Cole has been solidifying his status as a new-school leader and a future legend in the game. Before releasing his debut album Cole World: The Sideline Story, Jermaine dropped two classic mixtapes, The Warm Up, and Friday Night Lights. Cuts from the critically acclaimed mixtapes like “Lights Please,” “Too Deep For the Intro,” and “In the Morning,” helped launch Cole’s career from the relatively unknown town of Fayetteville, North Carolina. Cole was born in Germany as a military kid and was relocated to America by his mother after his father evaporated. At age 12, Cole was already flexing his skills on the mic, but being discovered in North Carolina didn’t seem like a realistic goal for the young wordsmith. After graduating high-school at the top of his class, Cole received a scholarship to St. John’s University in New York and relocated to the Big Apple to pursue both his degree and a career in rap music.

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Moving to New York was monumental for Cole’s career. While Jay-Z was recording his American Gangster album, Cole ambushed him outside the studio and was ultimately dismissed by the Roc-A-Fella founder, who instructed young Jermaine to hand his demo CD to someone else. A year later, record producer Mark Pitts would play “Lights Please” for Jay, which broke down the barrier and allowed Cole to finally have a sit down with HOV. At the time, Jay had just started Roc Nation, and wasn’t planning on signing raps artists. Jay expressed his acquired weariness of rappers from his Roc-A-Fella days, and wished to capitalize on the pop success he created when serving as President for Def Jam (he engineered the success of both Ne-yo and Rihanna, pop icons). Cole’s pure talent caught Jay off guard and prompted him to change his game plan from signing straight pop artists, to balancing rap acts as well.

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In the last eight years, Jermaine has blessed his fans with classic titles, unforgettable instrumentals, and a wealth of knowledge. Not to mention, he has built his own label from the ground up, Dreamville Records, that houses a multitude of talent, such as EarthGang, J.I.D., Cozz, and Bas. Cole’s tutelage under No I.D. elevated his beat making capabilities, while his apprenticeship with HOV has increased his lyricism, hustle and intelligence. He has a plethora of hits in his catalogue, so many in fact that it took weeks to dig through them and construct a list worthy of consideration. Building a definitive list of the best J. Cole songs was a formidable, gargantuan, and challenging task that we did not take lightly. We apologize now, if your favourite Cole track doesn’t appear on our list (although that’s highly doubtful), Jermaine simply has too many bangers. The songs that changed the rap game, influenced our daily lives, or displayed the growth of one of hip-hop brightest stars, were placed at the forefront of our rankings. So, without further ado, here is our list of the 25 best J. Cole songs.