J. Cole is not generally considered to be a confrontational figure in hip hop. Compared to many of his contemporaries, he hasn't necessarily engaged in many feuds. He tends to spread positivity in his music and is highly respected in hip-hop. However, J. Cole still has found himself engulfed in beefs with other MCs throughout his successful career. For the most part, J. Cole has steered away from directly dissing rappers in a song but he has a history of sneakily sending subliminal jabs towards them. Mostly, J. Cole's beefs have been one-sided as some have taken offense to the subliminal disses and have directly addressed him, even without any real interaction.
This is a deep dive into some of J. Cole's most notable public feuds in recent years. Many of them are one-sided where certain individuals responded to Cole's sneak disses but there have been other times where he's directly called out some of his peers and competitors. Take a look at all of the biggest J. Cole beefs below.
J. Cole's beef with Diddy was the most serious of all of his public feuds. The root cause of the beef is unknown, but their contention escalated to the point where they reportedly physically fought each other in 2013 at an MTV VMA Awards afterparty. The original reports of the fight were denied but J. Cole confirmed the beef on his 2021 song "l e t . g o . m y . h a n d." He raps, "My last scrap was with Puff Daddy, who would've thought it?/ I bought that n***a album in seventh grade and played it so much/You would've thought my favorite rapper was Puff/ Back then I ain't know shit, now I know too much." Although Cole and Puff immediately laughed off the incident after the reports emerged, the track formally marked the reconciliation between J. Cole and Diddy as Puff appeared on the song's outro.
Responses to "Everybody Dies"
In 2016, J. Cole released the pair of singles, "Everybody Dies" and "False Prophets," which led to strong reactions from members of the hip hop community who took offense. Aimed towards mumble rappers, J. Cole raps, "Bunch of words and ain't sayin' shit, I hate these rappers / Especially the amateur eight-week rappers / Lil' whatever - just another short bus rapper." Lil Yachty and Lil Uzi Vert both felt like the lyrics were aimed at them, but shrugged it off in interviews and on social media.
"False Prophets" stirred up just as much controversy as "Everybody Dies." Almost the entire song could be interpreted as a diss. Although J. Cole did not address anyone directly, many felt like the first verse was aimed towards Kanye West. Cole confirmed the verse applies to Kanye rather than being directly inspired by the Chicago artist. The issues stem from Kanye's ego-driven rants but more generally, the concept of celebrity worship. Cole admittedly looked up to Kanye as a kid, rapping over many of his beats. Wale felt that the second verse was aimed at him, to which he responded in his song "Groundhog Day." Since then, Wale and J. Cole have been on good terms, collaborating on "My Boy Freestyle" and "Poke It Out."
Reactions to "1985"
"1985 (Intro to 'The Fall Off')," the outro song from J. Cole's 2018 album, K.O.D, received similar reactions to "Everybody Dies" and "False Prophets." In the song, J. Cole speaks directly to an unnamed rapper with advice on how to make it in hip hop. He speaks from the perspective of an older rapper who is teaching an up-and-coming artist the keys to a long and successful career. He asks them questions about their goals and how they want to leave a legacy, warning them about potentially falling off. Similar to "Everybody Dies," many felt like J. Cole was dissing young mumble rappers.
Though J. Cole said that he was not talking to anyone specifically on the song, rappers Lil Pump and Smokepurpp took offense. Although they had already launched their "F*ck J. Cole" campaign slogans in concerts and on social media, "1985" certainly created further tension. and started dissing J. Cole on social media and at their live shows, sparking a short-lived beef. J. Cole and Lil Pump eventually sat down and ended the beef.
One of J. Cole's biggest and most recent public beef was with Noname. At the height of the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests, Noname criticized hip-hop's most visible figures for profiting "off blackness while simultaneously being silent when it comes to black death." J. Cole responded with a song called "Snow on the Bluff" which does not reference Noname directly, but still responds to her comment. In the song, J. Cole tells fans not to look to him for insightful remarks, feeling like he is not doing enough during the protests. He praises Noname for her intelligence and activism, but also felt like she was talking down to him in a self-righteous way. Cole mentions how the tone of Noname's tweet bothered him, to which many took offense. The song sparked a short-lived beef between J. Cole and Noname
Noname responded two days later with "Song 33," rapping about how J. Cole could have used the song to address the racism and police brutality that caused the protests. J. Cole and Noname did not officially end their short beef, but they have spoken since.