J. Cole’s 10 Favorite Albums

blame it on Shake September 30, 2011

As Complex’s J. Cole week comes to an end, Cole sheds light on his 10 favorite albums of all time. From Michael Jackson’s Bad to UGK’s Ridin’ Dirty, check the full list right here.

  • my review

    J. Cole
    “Cole World: The Sideline Story” (2011)
    Roc Nation, Columbia

    J. Cole has traveled a very long way from “The Come Up.” The MC’s first mix-tape, fresh out of a St. John’s University dorm room, was littered with wishes of wanting, damn near demanding to be heard. Wanting a deal, wanting fame, wanting his city of Fayetteville, North Carolina to have its place on the map and all that comes with it. Tracks like “Simba” and “Dollar and a Dream” were, and still are the foundation that has the North Carolina rapper garnering the attention of many ears in hip-hop today. That sound and desire remains the reason why so many people around the world have had bated breath, for the past three years, to see what the first artist signed to Jay-Z’s label Roc Nation has to offer with his first LP.

    After two critically acclaimed mix-tapes in “The Warm Up” and “Friday Night Lights,” and stand-out features on Jay’s “Blueprint 3,” Reflection Eternal’s “Revolutions per Minute,” and on Kanye West’s G.O.O.D. Friday circuit, all people want to know is “can J. Cole deliver on a proper LP?” I’m here to tell you, confidently, YES!

    Lyrics/Content: If this is, was, or will be your first time hearing J. Cole, you are about to figure out what the rest of us have known for some time now: Cole has bars for days! On the first couplet of the first song “Dollar and a Dream III” that message is delivered loud and clear: “Walk with a nigga, I give you my pain/So much on my mind I wonder how it fit in my brain?” For all the fans that have been on the boat/bandwagon/*insert any moving thing that represents a long ass time* you know what the deal is! Dope lyrics are practically begging to be found and quoted all throughout this record. Songs like “Sideline Story,” “Lost Ones,” “Rise and Shine,” “God’s Gift” and “Breakdown” all signify that the Cole we have come to know and love, isn’t going anywhere! The sequencing of this record also gives the album an enjoyable flow with the lyrics and content complementing each other well. For example, “In the Morning (Featuring Drake),” a slow, sexy track is followed by the possible repercussions of that morning in “Lost Ones” which deals with abortion. The track listing is a testament to J. Cole having access to a mentor like Jay-Z, who knows the ins and outs of the rap game. A person who you can bring your “homework” to, and have your “tutor” make some tweaks and adjustments on what needs to be changed.

    Production: There are very few examples of artists who produce a majority of their own records and succeed. Kanye West is the best example of an artist who kind of breaks the mold. While I’ll hold off on any major Kanye comparisons for now, West has found some new competition in that category in J. Cole. The only glaring difference between the two is that Kanye stared as a producer and slowly found footing as an actual rapper, Cole is the opposite. We all know he can rhyme, but his production is going to need time to gain recognition. You heard records like Kendrick Lamar’s “HiiiPoWer” and XV’s “Smallville” and began to wonder if Cole was being too generous in giving those beats away, but you listen to “Cole World: The Sideline Story” and discover that the beats are monsters! The more albums and records he release that are self-made the more he will obtain a following as an excellent producer as well.
    All in all, if Cole put more time into production he would become a force, but the opposite is true as well. I can’t remember a Jay-Z track that was produced solely by Jay-Z, but I can quote a lot of his lyrics. So if Cole wants to take his game to the next level and have “Cole World: The Hall of Fame Story” he might have to sacrifice a little production joy, and focus sincerely on making the best rapping product we all know he can deliver us.

    Songs for the iPod:
    Dollar and a Dream III
    Sideline Story
    Mr. Nice Watch (Featuring Jay-Z)
    Cole World
    Lost Ones
    Nobody’s Perfect (Featuring Missy Elliot)
    Never Told
    Rise and Shine
    God’s Gift

    Closing Arguments: With all of the hype and conjecture surrounding this album, J. Cole delivers a rookie product that few could have in this day and age. The outside pressure leading to this album was intense, almost like hip-hop needs saving? Trust me; if Lil Wayne can sell 1,000,000 records in a week and Jay-Z & Kanye West record can go platinum in a month, hip-hop is doing just fine. All we want from J. Cole is progression and signs that he can become an artist to reckon with for the next decade or so. Now, is this album the second coming of Nas’ “Illmatic,” Raekwon’s “Only Built 4 Cuban Linx,” or his mentor’s “Reasonable Doubt,” probably not, but only time will tell. In any event, this album is an excellent starting point for Cole to build his fan base and his brand. And if this is the goal, he definitely hasn’t lost any momentum for his sophomore release!

    Overall Rating: 7.9/10

  • brite

    His album is a 2.2 at best.

  • Cali760

    Eminem is in his top 5 rappers list and he doesn’t have Eminem on top ten albums?

  • LexiCon

    “The Warm Up” was really great. Too bad J. Cole never touched that level again.

  • Cubano

    ^^ Yall are stupid if someone asks you on the spot to name all of ur favorite albums ur guna remember ALLLL of them? its a fucking spontaneous list lol and i give cole’s album an 8.5

  • This List was Wack . . . Here’s My Top 10: 1. 50 Cent – The Massacre 2. Jay-Z – The Black Album 3. Eminem – The Eminem Show 4. The Notorious B.I.G. – Ready To Die 5. Ma$e – Harlem World 6. A Tribe Called Quest – Midnight Marauders 7. Nas – It Was Written 8. Cam’Ron – Purple Haze 9. 2Pac – All Eyez On Me 10. Kanye West – Late Registration

  • Dope


  • inside information

    my ad blocker blocks complex’s entire website

  • prk

    Cole had an average debut, but understand why people are pushing the hype.

    I dont think cole will hit his prime for a few more years.

  • hey, do you guys know if this Jay Cole guy is any good? I’ve never heard of him

  • Hip-Hop Fiend

    My list NO particular order: Nas-Illmatic, Jay-Z-Blueprint, Jay-Z-The Black Album, Eminem-Marshall Mathers LP, Eminem-The Eminem Show, The Fugees-The Score, Lauryn Hill-The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, Kanye West-The College Dropout, Kanye West-Graduation, Bigge-Ready To Die


    if you’re from NYC the #1 album automatically on every niggaz list should be ERIC B & RAKIM “PAID IN FULL”. I don’t care if it was just yesterday you was hopping off your mom’s milk holders, PAID IN FULL is hip hop’s holy scriptures. you lil niggaz need to knowledge yourselves and do your studies.


  • Thinker

    damn. a lot of these niggas lists are not mixed AT ALL. yall seriously only listen to rap all day? no wonder ur ass is fucked up.

  • 40oz.Prophet

    Makaveli The 7 Day Theory
    Capital Punishment – Big Pun
    By All Means Necessary – BDP
    It takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back – Public Enemy
    Get Rich Or Die Tryin’
    Marshall Mathers LP
    Pauls Boutique – Beastie Boys
    Run DMC 1st Album
    Mr. Scarface Is Back
    Niggaz 4 Life

    Thats 12 but whatever…Idont really give a fuck. Showing my age too, but who cares? HipHop doesn’t have an age limit.

  • 40oz.Prophet

    Shit, you cant narrow it down to 10 sometimes.
    Life After Death
    The Chronic
    Road To The Riches

    Im just givin you youngins homework now, lol

    Live & Let Die
    Low End Theory
    Midnight Marauders
    3 Feet High & Rising
    Long Live The Kane
    Paid In Full (Of Course)
    Criminal Minded

  • shzntt

    it just got a little chillier in here……..

  • david

    @40oz.Prophet- educate yourself, doggystyle? really? doggystyle’s a good album but it’s not even top 10 hip-hop let alone top 10 of all genres
    slick rick- the great adventrues of slick rick
    rakim- the master
    pete rock and cl- main ingredient & mecca and the soul brother
    gang starr- moment of truth
    oc- word life
    wu tang-enter the wu tang(36 chambers)
    organized konfusion- stress, the extinction agenda
    blu & exile- below the heavens
    mos def/ talib- black star
    scarface- the fix
    not all fall in my top 10 that’s just some that people havent mentioned yet, wild style (film and soundtrack) deserves a mention too, then there’s albums from other genres like marvin-whats going on, parliament- Funkentelechy Vs. the Placebo Syndrome, anything from muddy waters, robert johnson, bob marley, music is more than 90s hip-hop 40oz.Prophet do YOUR homework, not everyone elses

  • malcymalc

    LOL at the people listing their fav albums like anyone else gives a rats ass hahaha

  • 40oz.Prophet

    LMAO @ david, stupid motherfucker. The list was about hiphop, you gotta get all extra and try to shit on doggystyle, but u listed Rakims worst album. educate YOURself son.

  • DiamondCutz

    1. Common – Like Water For Chocolate
    2. Nas – Stillmatic
    3- 50 – Get Rich or Die Tryin
    4- Biggie – Life After Death
    5- Biggie – Ready To Die
    6- JayZ – The Black Album
    7- Common – Be
    8- 50 – The Massacre
    9- The Roots – The Tipping Point
    10- Young Jeezy – Thug Motivation 101

  • col?

    respect. nice top 10.

  • david

    @40oz.Prophet since when was michael jackson’s Bad a hip-hop album? And I said Doggystyle’s a good album but not top 10, i own the album, gave it a lot of spins but it’s not top 10, and The Master isn’t his worst album it’s gone over people’s heads coz of people that think that an artists work from best to worst can be judged by chronological order from early to most recent, The Master is an under-rated classic, fact not opinion, study the flow, rhyme schemes, production, lyrical content, don’t have it playing in the background while you post simple comments on blogs, get rid of all distractions and listen to it properly

  • YoungCosby

    Top 10:

    Notorious B.I.G: Ready to Die
    Raekwon: Only Built For Cuban Linx
    Eminem: The Eminem Show
    ATCQ: Midnite Maurauders
    Little Brother: The Listening
    The Roots: Illadelphhalflife
    DMX: It’s Dark And Hell Is Hot
    Wu-Tang: Enter the 36th Chamber
    Slum Village: Fantastic Vol. 2
    Nas: Illmatic
    Outkast: Aquemini

  • counter terrorists win

    in no order

    nas – illmatic
    eminem – marshall mathers LP
    jay-z – blueprint
    little brother – the minstrel show
    blu&exile – below the heavens
    laruyn hill – miseducation
    wu tang – 36 chambers
    tribe – midnight marauders
    the roote – things fall apart
    lupe fiasco – food and liquor