In the 2017 Eyez documentary, which chronicled J. Cole’s creation of his 4 Your Eyez Only album, he said, “You’re never guaranteed to be this high again. So while I’m here, let me use this opportunity to say the realest shit I’ve ever said.” That mindset has formed the basis for one of hip-hop’s most respected catalogs.

The 34-year-old rapper is regarded as a rap icon of the 2010s because of honest, reflective music that resonates with millions of fellow aspirational millennials. Like his mentor figure and Roc Nation boss Jay-Z, Cole’s albums and mixtapes are time capsules that reflect his current space in life, for better or worse.

His debut mixtape, The Come Up, offered aspirational tracks like “Simba” and “Dollar and a Dream,” on which he affirmed, “A nigga finna blow while you niggas is false alarmin'.” He indeed reached the steeple of the rap game, becoming a commercial force on 2014 Forest Hills Drive, which—say it with us—went platinum with no features.

But Cole has always made it clear that being a rap star isn’t a 100 percent glorious experience. Fame came with grown-man qualms that he explored on his latest album, KOD, an 18-track reflection on society falling prey to addiction, from the nihilism of young artists to his own hedonism.

Those stellar projects are just a few highlights of a lifetime in rap lines. But where does each project rank? Check out a ranking of each project in Cole’s catalog, from good to greatest.

See Every J. Cole Project Ranked

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