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Watch a pre-fame J. Cole in one of his earliest ever freestyles

There is something wholly visceral about the world of hip hop. Part of the genre’s ultimate appeal is that it allows people to not only better themselves through their expression but also gives them a chance to duke it out with another contemporary. Few musical areas value this competition more than hip hop. It meant that for most artists the need or desire to freestyle, pitting your wits against another rapper, is as intrinsic as a love of the beat itself.

In turn, that means catching a rare or unseen freestyle from your favourite rapper can be as equally exciting as it is incredibly revealing. When you scroll back the years to look at an artist’s pre-fame jollies in the freestyle game, then you get a double-helping of each. Today, we’re looking back at one of J. Cole’s earliest freestyles.

There can be no doubt, J. Cole is rightly considered one of the fiercest freestyles around right now. Over the years, the North Carolina native has turned his pen into a weapon that few can contest with, delivering rhyme on rhyme of mind-expanding brilliance. His most recent escapade saw him provide perhaps one of his greatest verses not on record as he dropped by Power 107’s L.A. Leakers radio show on Wednesday and delivered a freestyle over the top of Souls of Mischief’s classic track ’93 ’til Infinity’.

Spitting bars like: “Or who they debatin’ is better/ Let’s face it, he one of the greatest/ No Bill Cosby shit, but if niggas is sleepin’, then fuck ’em/ Most niggas don’t understand me/ I don’t do the GRAMMYs, I be in my jammies on sofa/ Most niggas don’t understand me,” Cole confirmed himself as the best quite quickly.

However, in the footage below we get a taste of Cole’s salad days. If you were looking for the moment Cole began to take his stuff to the next level, then keep on moving. If you’re looking for a somewhat humorous reminder that we were all young and stupid at some point in our lives, then we’ve got you covered.

Buzz cut, baggy clothes and biting a New York flow, Cole is almost unrecognisable in this clip. A teenager, he still has some sharp observations but, in truth, all this clip says about the Cole we know today is that he always had confidence. Watch a pre-fame J. Cole in one of his earliest ever freestyles.