J. Cole markets himself as an album artist, but it increasingly appears that his true calling is writing feature verses. The Fayetteville MC has a killer instinct when he’s a guest on a track, deployed for a short burst of time — the sprints, versus marathons, suit him. Very few rappers can claim they’ve killed Jay-Z, Kanye West, Jeezy and Kendrick Lamar on wax within the same decade, but Cole has the résumé. He kept the streak alive this week, dropping two surprise guest appearances on projects that came out on Friday: Wale’s “My Boy” – (Freestyle)” and 6LACK’s “Pretty Little Fears.”
“My Boy” is produced by Cole — not a huge surprise — and its simple, stuttering beat fits his aggressive voice and magnetic flow in a way that sets him up to be the star of the show. Jermaine is at his most entertaining when he sheds the conscious bars for his special brand of tasteful taunting. Toward the middle of his verse he boasts, “The game too crowded, I’m ’bout to get all the way the fuck up out it / No if’s, and’s or but’s about it / 30 mill’ on a deal depending on how the tour was ‘rowded.” The line isn’t hyperbole; Cole was ranked number five on Forbes’s “Cash Kings of 2018,” reportedly earning $35.5 million in annual earnings.
“My Boy” isn’t the first time Cole arguably got the best of the Wale on a track. In 2009, Jermaine appeared on Wale’s “Beautiful Bliss,” where he jokingly spit about hoping Jay would one day pass him the baton.
For 6LACK’s “Pretty Little Fears,” Cole decides to pivot away from aggressive bars and rap about a woman he calls his “flower.” In a year where the North Carolina MC has dedicated much of his time to mentoring young rappers like Lil Pump, “Pretty Little Fears” is a nice reprieve. He ends his verse by letting his special lady know, “with peace from stress and strife / And that’s the blessing that I get from wifing you.”
Cole’s next project on the horizon is co-executive producing Swizz Beatz’s next album, Poison. It’s unclear if he’s rapping on it as well, but if he has a verse, rappers should be wary of appearing alongside him.