Photo: Paras Griffin / Contributor via Getty Images
  /  11.12.2023

If you’re like us, you’re motivated by just about anything J. Cole says. Something about his down-to-earth demeanor and insightful lyrics create windows for you to see the world in ways you didn’t before you turned on his music. 

Throughout his career, J. Cole has consistently released hits that fans bump before walking away with a deeper awareness. He touches on topics not limited to the usual ones rappers talk about: the rap game, women, money, cars, and clothes. Ranging from rapper life to real life, the MC takes on themes like the tragic trends of rapper murders or the perils of being Black in America. 

Whether you’re listening to his verse on a mainstream feature like “All My Life” or a classic like “Chaining Day,” Cole is going to drop a gem (if not gems). So, if you’re in need of a sort of J. Cole pick me up, here are 15 of the rapper’s lyrics that’ll inspire you.

1. “So here we are / Funny how so close can seem so far.” – Intro Friday Night Lights 

This line, taken from the intro of J. Cole’s third mixtape, Friday Night Lights, released in 2010, highlights a storytelling technique the rapper mastered early on in his career. That is his ability to say precisely what we need to hear as plainly as possible. 

If you’ve followed Cole’s career, you know that before he was a rapper, he was a high achiever from a humble town in North Carolina. Anyone who is a high achiever knows well the tendency to overthink and how it can foster the feeling of being far from success. In this one-liner, J. Cole reminds listeners that this feeling is illusory and that staying the course may be more beneficial when you feel like giving up. 

2. “Always worried ’bout the critics who ain’t ever f**kin’ did it / I write what’s in my heart, don’t give a f**k who f**kin’ with it.” – False Prophets 

As someone who considers themself an artist who is also sensitive about their ‘ish, this line is definitely at the top of my list of Cole World affirmations. 

Like every artist, he is no stranger to criticism. By 2016, when he dropped the single “False Prophets,” he was used to being on the receiving end of criticism. And while many of us remember him using the single to highlight how some of our industry faves aren’t who they claim to be, it’s also important to remember how he took time to tell critics about themselves.

At this point, Cole reminds listeners that the key to his success has always been staying true to what’s in his heart. Everyone else, critics especially, can kick rocks. If you ever feel discouraged by criticism, this is the type of energy you need to keep pushing.

3. “No such thing as a life that’s better than yours.” – Love Yourz

The entire 2014 Forest Hill Drive album feels like a love letter to quell the stress and anxiety that comes with everyday life. Throughout the project, Cole reminds us that we are here for a purpose, even when the world is against us. And if you walk away with nothing from that album, you’ll at the very least have this cliché turned meditation lodged into your subconscious. 

Cole takes a line we’ve all heard before and makes it deeply personal. He does so in a way that will have you saying the phrase to the melody of “Love Yourz” anytime you find yourself in a situation where you are trying to pick yourself up from what feels like the worst-case scenario. 

4. “We don’t look nothin’ like the people on the screen / You know, them movie stars, picture-perfect beauty queens / But we got dreams, and we got the right to chase ‘em.” – Crooked Smile

“Crooked Smile,” which appeared on J.Cole’s second studio album and includes guest appearances from members of one of the most successful 90’s girl groups TLC is a fan-favorite. The song’s title, lyrics and feel-good quality create a ballad that reminds listeners that they don’t have to be perfect to be worthy. 

In this line, Cole points out how unnecessary it is to be “picture perfect” to chase what we want. In the era of heightened external pressure, thanks to social media, it is a message we can all benefit from hearing more often. 

5. “Imagination turned a Honda into Wraith.” – a m a r i

An example of the rapper’s masterful use of imagery, this short bar and its delivery accomplishes exactly what it sets out to. That is to make the point that his creativity and imagination have transformed his life from standard to luxurious. 

This line, taken from the song “a m a r i,” was published on his sixth studio album The Off-Season. In the song, Cole brags about his journey from small-town kid to superstar rapper, and off the rip he feels it’s important to remind listeners of how his ingenuity got him here. The truth is, Cole isn’t the only person who can tap into this powerful tool we’re all born with. Sometimes, people just need reminders like these to take advantage of their natural talents. 

6. “Aim for the stars, and I shouldn’t have missed / But I was riding on fumes, so I stopped by the moon / Now I’m sitting on the hood of this b**ch / like, thanks for the view.” – Apparently

“Apparently” on 2014 Forest Hill Drive starts with Cole belting lyrics about freedom, persistence and faith. From start to finish, the entire song is inspiring, but these few lines vividly depict how to return from failure. 

Though these lines can be interpreted differently, the rapper admits that he has not always succeeded in his journey. Instead of giving up, he says he stops to appreciate “the view” or life for what it is For many, failure can feel like a reason to give up, but Cole offers an alternative, an opportunity to take a break and give thanks, which is always a great way to recharge and get inspired. 

7. “With all the cards against him, he used them to his advantage.” – Sideline Story

This line is taken from one of the rapper’s earlier releases, “Sideline Story,” and is named after his debut studio album, Cole World: The Sideline Story. Throughout this project, Cole speaks on the experience of trying to make something of yourself while navigating an array of tumultuous life challenges. In this line, he is extraordinarily frank in revealing that owning your status as an underdog can be the gift in an experience that feels like a curse.

8. “You see the clout / You don’t see the real me / If I was sick, you n**gas wouldn’t heal me / Therefore, I’m healin’ myself, gettin’ in tune with my God / Slowly revealin’ myself, buildin’ my wealth.”  – t h e . c l i m b . b a c k

On “t h e . c l i m b . b a c k.” Cole speaks on the trauma he has experienced in his ascent. In these few lines, he highlights how striving for anything can make it difficult for people around you to see the real you. As a celebrity, Cole is familiar with people forgetting that he is also human. As humans, we need to be extended grace and given space to heal from past traumas, which can be isolating. Instead of waiting on everyone else to see who he truly is, the star tunes in and leans on his faith. 

9. “I roll with some fiends, I love ‘em to death / I got a few mil’ but not all of them rich / What good is bread if my n**gas is broke? / What good is first class if my niggas can’t sit? / That’s my next mission, that’s why I can’t quit.” – Middle Child

Like all rappers, J. Cole’s dedication to his career hasn’t only been about getting to the top of the mountain to enjoy success alone. This quote from “Middle Child,” a single on Dreamville’s Revenge of The Dreamers III, is a classic “who I do it for” quote. It serves as a reminder to everyone that when dream chasing, it is also profoundly inspiring to pull our people up with you. 

10. “Ain’t a way around it no more. I am the greatest / A lotta n**gas sat on the throne, I am the latest / I am the bravest, go toe to toe with the giants.” – Fire Squad

In another set of phrases that belong on everyone’s Cole World List of Affirmations, J. Cole again says exactly what you need to hear. 

Fire Squad” is an album hit from 2014 Forest Hills Drive. In it, he observes how capitalism has allowed white people to come up and take over hip hop. Despite this, he affirms his place as the greatest, the bravest and capable of going up against giants. 

If you ask any successful person, they will tell you affirmations are essential to their progress. When you feel insecure, routinely reminding yourself of your abilities, strengths and courage. 

11. “Perhaps I was foolish, just like the boy that prays to only see the sun / Maybe life happens like tides / One minute you’re low and feelin’ shallow, then all of a sudden you rise.” – Legendary (ft. J. Cole)

Along with dropping knowledge on his hits, J. Cole blesses his features with the same level of intention as in this one from Joey Badass’ single, “Legendary.”

Cole speaks to the common desire to want a life full of sunshine when, in reality, the key to this whole thing is acceptance. It can feel good to want to only focus on ensuring the best possible outcomes, but that can make it challenging to overcome hardship. Instead, Cole gets listeners to see that it’s okay to find solace in the highs and the lows.  

12. “If they want a n**ga, they gone have to send a SWAT team / And I’m going out like Scarface in his last scene / A legend, what that mean?” – Immortal

These two lines from “Immortal,” which appears on his fourth studio album 4 Your Eyez Only, are Cole’s equivalent to Michael Jackson’s rhetorical Who’s Bad?” 

He wants everyone listening to know he’s unstoppable and that only the highest form of combat can take him out. Even when that happens, it’ll be glorious, and he will live on as a legend. If you want to be hyped up to do something people have said you can’t, this is precisely the type of energy you should approach things with. 

13. “I flip my misfortune and grow me a fortune.” – ATM

This is another straightforward lyric where J. Cole tells listeners that his minor setbacks only set the stage for major comebacks. While it may feel safe to wallow in the frustration of being challenged, this is a reminder that it’s always better to focus on the bounce-back. 

14. “Maybach tinted, ”Scuse me, sir, but ain’t that rented?’ I’m offended / Straight cash for my Benzes, we don’t pay back interest.” – London ft. J. Cole

Cole is often considered an artist who leans on his relatability to inspire listeners, yet we’ve seen throughout this list that he has no problem rapping on his material success. 

In this quote from “London,” he flaunts his material wealth to give listeners an image of his success – he can afford expensive cars without renting or a car note. Through peeks into his material wealth (cars he drives, houses he owns, etc.), J. Cole creates rags-to-riches moments that are goals to those committed to the come up. 

15. “I can’t tell you where I’m going, just know I won’t stop / Goodbye to the bottom, hello to the top.” – Grown Simba

This quote, taken from “Grown Simba,” which appears on Cole’s second mixtape, The Warm Up, is a reflection of what it feels like to pull yourself up from the bottom with no idea where you’re going. 

These lines prove that, throughout his career, Cole has maintained an undying optimism that he willfully shares with his fans and everyone who listens to his music. If you need a melodic push to kick-start something new, J. Cole for sure got you in the inspiration department. 



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