Best Music 2010: J. Cole Speaks On His Top Album And The State Of Hip-Hop

Erika Brooks Adickman | December 23, 2010 10:00 am

Best Of 2010 lists continue to crop up from various music critics (and, um, us) as we all continue to define and digest the sound of 2010. But what about the artists who helped shape it? As a special holiday treat to you, we’ve picked a special class of singers, musicians and groups — artists we consider among the most creative emerging stars in pop — to participate in our special year-end feature. Here, they exclusively share with us their reflections on the albums, songs and performers that made their year really… pop. And in many cases, their answers were surprising.

Thus far in our year-end series, Adam Lambert waxed poetic about Sia, Far East Movement trumpeted Eminem’s Recovery, and Enrique Iglesias threw a curveball by standing up for Linkin Park’s “Waiting For The End”. But today we turn to rising Roc Nation star J. Cole, who burst onto the scene this year and is poised for a HUGE 2011. Which album helped restore Cole’s faith in hip-hop? You might be surprised — check below.

After earning a featured slot in Jay-Z’s “A Star Is Born” on The Blueprint 3, Jermaine Cole spent 2010 proving that he’s deserving of the initial hype. After shooting a classic, single-shot video to validate his North Carolina roots, he set off on a months-long journey that took him to all the right places: a show-stopping performance at Lollapalooza, Kanye West’s G.O.O.D. Fridays series, and of course, the studio, where he recorded a hot verse for Miguel’s soulful “All I Want Is You” and perhaps the best mixtape of the year.

But Cole has his own perspective on who released hot music this year — in particular, he looked to upstart Compton, Calif. rapper Kendrick Lamar, a raspy speed-rhymer who has also caught the ear of superproducer Dr. Dre. (Lamar’s talent, and appreciation for Dre, are on display on his new jam “Look Out For Detox”.) Why does Cole consider Lamar’s Overly Dedicated EP his album of the year? Simple. It reminded him that he’s not the only new star breathing fresh air into hip-hop. Watch:

In rewinding 2010 with Cole, however, talk turned to the overall health of hip-hop. And in Cole’s eyes, it isn’t all that strong: “Hip-hop used to set the trends, and lately it’s been following the trends,” he notes.

Will Cole be content to inhabit the “indie hip-hop” circle he describes? Or will he seize one of those precious few slots on the pop chart? We’ll find out early next year, when his official debut finally drops. We’re excited to spend some time living in a Cole World.

*** Keep coming back to Idolator for more year-end faves from some of 2010’s most noteworthy artists.

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