Top 10 J. Cole Beats

Amid J. Cole’s ascension into being one of rap’s biggest names, it can be forgotten that not only is he an MC, but also a producer – and a good one at that. I am of the belief that J. Cole may actually be better at making beats than he is at rapping. Now, I certainly think that many of his records could have used additional input from other producers, aside from himself, but the majority of Cole’s production discography is solid nonetheless.

With his numerous full length mixtapes and growing number of commercial studio albums, picking out his top beats was no easy feat. Many of his best songs feature mellow, retro-inspired production that can be nostalgic, but Cole has also delivered some of his most popular tracks over fiery and louder instrumentals. In sifting through his many projects and soaking in Cole’s personal style, I grew reassured that while he may not be the most diverse producer, he is without a doubt very consistent.

Without further adieu, here is a list of the ten best beats by J. Cole.

Honorable Mentions: Higher, Runaway, Let Nas Down, Immortal, Neighbors

10. Blow Up

Album: Friday Night Lights

Cole’s mixtape discography is pretty solid, but most of his early projects lack any definitive singles. “Blow Up” may be an exception. It blares like a hard rock song – the slow build up, a booming hook, an overall brash aesthetic. This beat sounds like it was produced for a rapper sitting atop a throne.

9. AfricAryaN

Album: Everybody (Logic)

One of J. Cole’s most notable contributions to another major rapper’s album, this track from Logic’s Everybody embodies persistent dance vibes with a thumping rhythm section. The quirky bassline and shimmering keys provide a light, serene feel, a strong contrast to the racially sensitive topics in the song.

8. Before I’m Gone

Album: Friday Night Lights

Firday Night Lights resonated with lots of conscious hip-hop fans for its attempt at crafting deeper than life meanings. In that exact vein, this song in particular builds up into a large spacious production, featuring euphoric background vocals, simple but dramatic piano chords and a flute that sounds like its being played by angels.

7. January 28th

Album: Forest Hills Drive

The intro track to Cole’s 2014 breakout album, this cut rocks a glossy sample from Hi-Fi Set’s “Sky Restaurant” that gives the song a classic sheen. The foggy yet triumphant horn chops are one of the more memorable characteristics of the production on Forest Hills Drive.

6. Purple Rain

Album: Purple Rain – Single

The sped up Al Green sample does most of the talking on this loosie, which didn’t make the cut for Cole’s 2010 mixtape Friday Night Lights. The watery guitar licks sound like a smooth, descending wave or waterfall, giving the track a moody, late night vibe.

5. Wet Dreamz

Album: Forest Hills Drive

J. Cole has been the culprit of quite a few cheesy love songs, “Wet Dreamz” being a contender for the top spot. However, that doesn’t take away from its rocking beat. The knocking and rhythmic drums, keyboard accents and high pitched vocal samples in the background make it a homerun.

4. Fire Squad

Album: Forest Hills Drive

I did my best to avoid repeating any songs from last week’s J. Cole list, but the beat on “Fire Squad” is too nasty to dismiss. It’s uptempo and energetic from the get-go, a perfect fit for an extremely charged up J. Cole.

3. G.O.M.D.

Album: Forest Hills Drive

Another fan favorite from Forest Hills Drive, this banger adopts a darker tone than most of Cole’s more aggressive songs. It’s among his most diversely assembled beats too, switching tempos multiple times, always coming back to the instantly recognizable Branford Marsalis vocal loop.

2. Power Trip

Album: Born Sinner

This Miguel-assisted single was one of J. Cole’s biggest hits at the time of its release, reaching the top ten on the charts. Wonky synths and a muddled, yet thundering bassline give way to grand string arrangements and an explosive chorus.

1. Hiii Power

Album: Section.80 (Kendrick Lamar)

There’s little question as to which beat takes the top spot on this list. Still trying to turn himself into a household name, in 2011, J. Cole was lending his production talents to a variety of talented upcoming artists, most notably, a kid from Compton named Kendrick Lamar. This eerie and motivational instrumental laid the foundation for a politically charged, rap underdog anthem – still one of Kendrick’s most convincing songs to date, much in thanks to Cole’s work on the beat.

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