A History and Ranking of J. Cole’s Top 15 “Loosies”

co-written by Craig T Lee

An artist’s ability throughout their career to bridge the gap between major releases is vital to keeping fans engaged and interested. Whether it’s his Truly Yours or Any Given Sunday series, or just one record not tied to any specific project (“loosie”), J. Cole has shown an adept ability to do just that. Most recently it was “False Prophets” and “Everybody Dies” prior to his 4 Your Eyez Only project.

These non-album cuts — most coming between projects during Cole’s mixtape run prior to signing with Roc Nation — have become a vital part of Fayetteville rapper’s discography as a whole.

Let’s shed some light on these sometimes forgotten records.

A few rules:

1. Cannot be apart of any major project, album or mixtape.

2. Records that were a part of the Truly Yours or Any Given Sunday series’ will not be included.

3. The songs cannot include features.

 

 

15. “Cheer Up” – 2011

A feel-good record that was a part of Sideline Story’s build up in 2011. This was an ode to women that flipped 2Pac’s “Changes” and also borrowed the same first line.

“Even through the joy I feel the pain / Even in the sun I feel the rain / Even when I’m high I feel the lows / Like that’s all I know”

 

14. “Black Friday” – 2015

Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole remixing one another’s tracks made post-Thanksgiving exhilarating. It added more speculation to the two putting together an album. However, Cole shut that down, rapping:

“When you and K. Dot shit drop?’ Bitch never. They can’t handle two black ni**as this clever.”

 

13. “High For Hours” – 2017

When Cole says high for hours I believe it. Released on Martin Luther King Jr. Day 2017, Cole touches on many issues surrounding social injustice as well as his meeting with Barack Obama. This record is meant to make you think about things differently and it does its job.

“But police still lettin’ off on n*ggas in the Ville / Claimin’ that he reached for a gun / They really think we dumb and got a death wish / Now somebody’s son is layin’ breathless.”

 

12. “Want you to Fly” – 2017

During Cole’s 4 Your Eyez Only documentary, he premiered this track. The song displayed artist’s prophet-like strength and challenged whether people related more to a rapper’s verse or the verses in bibles.

 

11. “Be Free” – 2014

Following the death of Michael Brown and the eventual non-indictment of the officer that killed him, Cole took to the streets of Ferguson as well as his SoundCloud to release ”Be Free” along with the following statement:

”Rest in Peace to Michael Brown and to every young black man murdered in America, whether by the hands of white or black. I pray that one day the world will be filled with peace and rid of injustice. Only then will we all Be Free.”

 

10. “Killers” – 2011

A dark, concept track, Cole raps from the perspective of a young man who has just killed someone. He confides with his mother and then goes on to reminisce about his old days as a young teen. The record dropped out of the blue prior to Cole releasing Sideline Story.

“I’m on the run, I live my life like a movie now it’s way too realer / Who would’ve thought your baby boy would’ve grew up to be a killer?”

 

9. “Playground” – 2010

Originally a part of Cole’s longtime personal producer Elite’s mixtape, “The Underground.” This is vintage Warm Up Cole that probably missed the final cut. The rap game was like a playground for Cole:

“But these labels throw me deals like the prosecution / Want to underpay me and fuck me like its prostitution

I write that constitution, you know, that classic shit / How you going to own my masters / And you ain’t mastered shit?”

 

8. “Nothing Like It” – 2011

Adding to the hype leading up to Cole’s debut album Sideline Story, ”Nothing Like It” is in-your-face Cole making his presence felt over a classic Beanie Seagel beat, reminding us all that he was here to stay.

“Yeah, Pistol Pete flow, smoke like a swisha sweet blow / Cole world, get ya pea coat”

 

7. “Grew Up Fast” – 2012

After releasing his debut album in 2011, Cole took a long hiatus, finally returning at the end of 2012 to release a few stand-alone records including “Grew Up Fast.” This is Cole at his very best over a Canei Finch-produced soul beat — David Ruffin’s “The Double Cross.”

“Thanks to my profession I balled like Uncle Fester / Thinkin about the board I use to have above the dresser

Half the shit I wrote down I did it, its old now got / New goals, plus my money on Manute Bol”

 

6. “Problems” – 2010

A song that was originally set to appear on Cole’s debut album but was left off after it was leaked prior to the album release. The record has an unfinished feel to it and that most likely was not intended. Either way, the record served a purpose as it definitely helped build the hype leading up to Sideline Story.

“So why the hell is you pulling over me fo’? / Is it this black Mercedes?

Oh now I get it, I get it, I get it / Or cause I’m Black, hmmm maybe?”

 

5. “See It To Believe It” – 2011

Released prior to Sideline Story, “See It To Believe It” is most likely a cut of Friday Night Lights standout “Premeditated Murder.” Borrowing the same first bar:

“The songs that I made in my bedroom and shit / Finally give a n*gga leg room and a whip”

 

4. “I Really Mean It (Freestyle)” – 2010

Classic Dipset featuring two of Cam’ron’s best verses — Cole had big shoes to fill over this Just Blaze beat. Another Warm Up record that didn’t appear on the actual mixtape.

“They say I’m the down south Nas, the east coast Pac / The Carolina Andre, the Fayettenam Kanye”

 

3. “Show Me Something” – 2010

Deep, introspective Cole over feel-good horns. Cole questions his purpose in life and reminisces about his friends that are no longer here, but also reminding you that everything is going to be alright.

 “And now he running for it, damn / Yea and now the cops is running for him damn

And now he finally slowing down / Hands behind your head, lay down on the ground”

 

2. “False Prophets” – 2016

Released prior to 4 Your Eyez Only, Cole addresses the rap game the way he saw it at that time, specifically Kanye West. Cole’s words on this track have never rung truer than right now.

“When he tell us he a genius but it’s clearer lately / It’s been hard for him to look into the mirror lately

There was a time when this nigga was my hero, maybe / That’s the reason why his fall from grace is hard to take”

 

1. “Return of Simba” – 2011

Another pre-Sideline Story release produced by Elite. It was the third and final installment of Cole’s Simba series that also included “Simba” and “Grown Simba.”

“Cause I only made classics, now what that take? Timing / Cole under pressure, what that make? Diamonds”