Earlier this year, J. Cole made his intentions loud and clear on Lil Durk’s “All My Life”: “Lately, I just wanna show up and body some sh-t.” To his credit, Cole has been living up to his word, treating the rap circuit like a demolition derby.
A proven features savant, this is familiar territory for the Dreamville commander, who had a torrid run in 2018 with his sea of verses. Slinging out gusty bars for 21 Savage’s Grammy-Winning song “a lot,” 6LACK’s “Pretty Little Fears,” and Wale’s “My Boy,” Cole’s penchant for destruction stems from his competitive edge. Since his early mixtape days in the late 2000s, Cole has always used guest appearances or freestyles as target practice and a way to improve.
More than 15 years later, he continues to employ that same system as he readies his upcoming release, It’s A Boy, the follow-up to his 2021 Billboard 200 chart-topper The Off-Season. He’s already made a trio of Billboard Hot 100 appearances this year, on songs alongside R&B star Summer Walker, BTS alum J-Hope and rap hitmaker Lil Durk. The latter teamup, “All My Life,” proved to be an immediate smash, debuting at No. 2 on the Hot 100 in May — tying “My Life,” his 2021 single alongside Morray and 21 Savage, for the highest peak Cole has yet reached on the chart — and still hanging strong in the top 15 three months later.
Below, Billboard ranked Cole’s best 2023 features, including the two he dropped today with Gucci Mane and Burna Boy.