J Cole Takes Home Top Rap Album Award At The Billboard Music Awards

Colin Fredericson

J Cole is currently basking in the cool glow of winning Top Rap Album at the Billboard Music Awards. Cole's third album, 2014 Forest Hills Drive, is his first true solo effort. It's a unique milestone in hip hop for having no guest artists featured on any of the songs.

The album was released December of last year and showed up as the No. 1 album on the Billboard 200 chart, despite little promotion. It's the second of J Cole's three albums to debut at No. 1, though Born Sinner eventually held the spot. The reception for 2014 Forest Hills Drive hasn't been 100 percent positive, but Cole's effort was daring and strong-willed enough to achieve platinum sales and finally take home the title at the Billboard Awards.

Pitchfork gave insight into what J Cole sought to do with this project.

"J Cole is a student of hip-hop, the kind who moves to New York to stalk Jay-Z for an opportunity to rap for him, peppers his lyrics with nods to the greats, and pens an apology to Nas when his biggest single comes across as too poppy. Cole is aware of the structure and pace of good rap albums and anxious to apply them to his own music."

J Cole's top single from the album is "Apparently," which peaked at No. 4 on the Billboard Rap Airplay chart. Cole made this song, like the album as a whole, a mixture of heartfelt life stories and love, along with a healthy dose of explicit, street-style braggadocio.

— J. Cole (@JColeNC) February 13, 2015

Cole is currently signed to Jay Z's Roc Nation label. He was the first artist signed to that record label. Discovering J Cole was obviously a good move for Jay Z.

Though Cole's music shows brilliance in bursts and blasts, I wouldn't mind seeing him in more collaborative efforts. Still, it's not easy to make a rap album solid from beginning to end on one's own, and J Cole comes closer than most.

[Photo by Robin Marchant/Getty Images for ESPN]