All 5 of J. Cole’s projects hit number 1 on the Billboard Charts. In 2011 he released Cole World: The Sideline Story. This album didn’t produce any major commercial hits, but he did release a few singles. The first single was Who Dat followed by Nobody’s Perfect and Work Out. Though every subsequent project was a solid chart topper, this is still my favorite album of his. Listeners could hear the hunger and passion in his lyrics. This was an album you could listen to without skipping a single track.
His sophomore release Born Sinner came in 2013. With songs like Power Trip, Trouble, Crooked Smile and Let Nas Down he was coming into his own; not only as a respected emcee, but also as an artist who could write songs for the radio.
He followed up in 2014 with Forest Hills Dr. By this point his position in the game was solidified. This release was more introspective than the former projects. He paid homage to his upbringing and home town, hence the album title. He also penned a cautionary tale about jealousy and materialism called Love Yours.
In 2016 he released 4 Your Eyez Only. With tracks like She’s Mine Part 1 and 2, Folding Clothes and Deja Vu, Cole had another solid project under his belt.
His most recent release came in April 2018. Ironically released on 420, the Dreamville rapper’s KOD was his third full length album to go platinum with no features. I guess it really is a Cole world.
Along the way he managed to build a brand for himself by signing artists like Cozz, Bas, JID, Earthgang , Lute, Omen and singer Ari Lennox. It appears that the artists on his roster are given the creative freedom to make quality music without obsessing over the pop charts. They probably follow his formula: make good music and the money will come. For a hip hop head like myself, I’d say it’s a damn good formula. He’s been successful at balancing the demands of being an artist with the expectations of running his own label. Is Cole an emcee or CEO? He’s proven he can do both.