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The 50 Best Rapper Mixtapes

23. J. Cole, The Warm Up (2009)

In the wake of Drake's So Far Gone, there was a renewed interest in the mixtape scene for rappers who could mix wit, introspection, and candor. Enter: J. Cole. His second mixtape not only helped establish the young spitter, but the mixtape's track "Lights Please" famously impressed Jay-Z so much he signed Cole to Roc Nation (the song would later appear on Cole's debut album, Cole World: The Sideline Story).

The mixtape helped Cole grow a buzz as he rapped over a series of classic beats like "Dead Presidents II" and "Last Call" and managed to do them justice. Yet it was on songs like "Grown Simba" and "Dollar and a Dream II" where Cole was able to establish his persona, setting him up as a relatable rapper with grand ambitions. —Insanul Ahmed

RELATED: The Making of J. Cole's Cole World: The Sideline Story

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