11. J. Cole f/ Nas "Let Nas Down (Remix)"
Producer: J. Cole, Nate Jones
Label: Roc Nation, Columbia
As hip-hop enters middle age (seriously, rap is in its 30s, it might as well pop an aspirin to make its blood thinner, hop in a warm bathtub, and run a razor blade along-not across-its veins and call it quits) one of the more delightful things we get to see is watching the torch get passed from a veteran to a younging. J. Cole really put it all on the line on "Let Nas Down" but Nasir was kind enough to return the favor by giving Cole the co-sign. When the original first came out, it was curious that Nas didn't comment right away.
But his thoughtful bars on the remix shed light on the mystery of why Nas kept Cole at a distance and his own shortcomings as a mentor, "It's hard for the great to tell somebody how to be great/Nigga I tried and niggas threw that shit right back in my face/They took my cosign, but they ain't let me EP their tapes." If Nas keeps rhyming like this, he'll remain an idol whose bars are unrivaled. —Insanul Ahmed