Ranking J. Cole's 2018 Features: Critic's Picks

Last year, Joey Bada$$ shared that J. Cole was done with giving out features for the foreseeable future, much to the dismay of the hip-hop community. For the most part, the North Carolina-bred MC hasn't been a fan of notching assists for his own projects, with the last three albums remaining relatively feature-free. Going platinum with no features on 2014 Forest Hills Drive has become a popular tagline surrounding the St. John's graduate's career. 

The 33-year-old was originally baptized in fire when he joined JAY-Z on Blueprint 3 standout cut "A Star is Born," where he delivered one of his first show-stealing performances. Fast-forward to 2018: Cole still exudes that same ultra-competitive mentality when appearing alongside rap compatriots that he has the utmost respect for. 

Outside of delivering his fifth straight Billboard 200-topping album with KOD in April, Jermaine has kept his sword sharpened through several lyrical assaults on a range of records as a featured artist, showing the world his skill set remains one of the most sought after in all of the genre's talent pool. 

Here are all of J. Cole's 2018 features ranked. 

6. Bas Feat. J. Cole - "Tribe"

Cole is always willing to collaborate with his Dreamville signees. Jermaine assisted on Bas' second single from his anticipated Milky Way album with "Tribe," which released during the midst of the August heat wave. The KOD rapper takes the baton for the second verse as he keeps listeners guessing by changing the pace with his smooth flow throughout. Cole foreshadows landing on Forbes' Hip-Hop Cash King list for 2018, where he is slotted in at No. 5 after raking in over $35 million thanks to the commercial success of KOD and its coinciding tour. Outside of the cultured visual, "Tribe" won't serve as a memorable moment in J. Cole's feature repertoire moving further out of 2018.  

5. 6LACK Feat. J Cole - "Pretty Little Fears"

J. Cole connected with 6LACK for their first genre-bending collaboration earlier this month (Sept. 14). The Atlanta native pours his heart out over a somber T-Minus production about failed relationships that have haunted his past. Cole appears shortly after the two-minute mark, speaking directly to his wife Melissa Heholt with a serious tone as an ominous bell rings off in the background. The Dreamville frontman opens up about how thankful he is for Melissa's presence in his life, admitting that sacrifices have been made to keep the relationship from crumbling in the past. "Cause even though I need a new start/ Due to my past transgressions, you believed in me/ I guess the light I see in you is what you see in me, lord," he admits. "Pretty Little Fears" debuted at No. 76 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart dated Sept. 29. 

4. Cozz Feat. J Cole - "Zendaya"

Just about everyone develops a celebrity crush that they dream about having the opportunity of wooing at some point in their life. For Cozz, that's 22-year-old actress Zendaya. When the topic of women came up during a writing session with J. Cole, the conversation was eventually brought to wax as Jermaine takes on the role of wingman and throws the ultimate alley-oop pass for his Dreamville cohort in hopes of connecting the pair.

Here, Cole delivers an extended verse over his own free-flowing production. In addition to helping out his friend with the task-at-hand, the Born Sinner artist reflects on how music became his therapy when evading the hurdles that have plagued others in the rap community. Cole displays his ability to masterfully weave socially conscious bars within a track that is centered around a light-hearted theme. Cozz admitted in June that he's been in contact with Zendaya since the song's release. Moral of the story, keep shooting. 

3. Jay Rock Feat. J. Cole - "OSOM"

Jay Rock delivered one of the most widely critically acclaimed albums of 2018 with Redemption back in June. With "OSOM," which is short for "Out of Sight Out of Mind," Cole touches on issues that have run rampant in inner-city communities for decades. He moves into warning folks to keep an eye out about who they surround themselves with as well as the problems the upcoming generation is facing with prescription pills and abusing social media.

The TDE rapper and Jermaine teamed up for a cinematic visual that featured the pair pulling off a Grand Theft Auto-like heist but they can't escape the paranoia that comes to follow. Creatively, Jay Rock and Cole flawlessly connect like they have worked together for much of the decade. Hopefully, more collaborations between the socially conscious duo are in the pipeline. 

2. Royce Da 5'9" Feat. J Cole - "Boblo Boat"

"Boblo Boat" served as the lead single for Royce Da 5'9"'s Book of Ryan album. The Detroit native looks inward for a brutally honest reflection of his early family life and discovering his self-identity on the Boblo Boat that transported Michigan citizens north of the border to the Boblo Island Amusement Park. From a lyrical standpoint, you'd be hard-pressed to find a couple of MCs boasting punchlines with more substance than Royce and Cole this decade.

Jermaine gets introspective to continue the theme of the track, recalling notable life events such as smoking for the first time at six years old and riding in the back of his mother's Honda Civic. The "No Role Modelz" rhymer raises his game to go toe-to-toe with Royce, but a mutual respect remains throughout the competition. 

1. Wale Feat. J. Cole - "My Boy" 

Collectively, J. Cole and Wale were a part of the next generation of rap stars coming up together at the turn of the decade. After initially collaborating on Folarin's "Rather Be With You" in 2009, the pair was caught in the studio together earlier in 2018, planting the idea that music from the lethal duo could possibly be on the horizon. "My Boy" then landed on Wale's Free Lunch EP to the delight of both their fanbases.

The joyful energy of the tune bleeds through as Wale and Cole connect for the first time in over three years and seem happy to just be in each other's presence. The pair bring out the best in each other over the fun freestyle that finds Jermaine exuding shrewd wordplay throughout his solo verse following Wale. It would be a crime to make listeners wait another three years for another collab effort between the two.  


The Biz premium subscriber content has moved to Billboard.com/business.

To simplify subscriber access, we have temporarily disabled the password requirement.