J. Cole

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In an era saturated with upstart MCs all vying for the coveted status of “next big thing”, the story of North Carolina native J. Cole (born Jermaine Cole) is a refreshing exception to the quick route for fame and success. The first artist signed to Jay-Z’s new Roc Nation label, Cole made himself notable through a scholarly approach to the game – no small feat considering his Magna Cum Laude distinction upon graduating from St. John’s University.

If his sudden christening by JAY-Z shocked the haters, their doubts were quickly refuted when J. Cole dropped his recent mixtape The Warm Up, as well as a coveted guest verse on JAY-Z’s Blueprint 3 with “A Star is Born”. Soulful and strong, J. Cole’s lyrics touch on everything from his upbringing in North Carolina to the poverty and hopelessness that affect his community. The mixtape encapsulates not just who J. Cole is as a rapper, but who he is as an artist and a person.

Taking from his favorite artists a love for powerful storytelling with an intense inner-strength, J. Cole advanced to writing his own lyrics at 15, soon amassing stacks of notebooks filled with rhymes and observations. Without a DJ or producer to provide a beat, he industriously started creating his own using a beat machine given as a present by his mother. From then on J. Cole was constantly creating new music and lyrics leading to his current and flow.

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Artist Biography

J. Cole, the first artist signed to Jay-Z’s Roc Nation label, was among the most commercially successful rap artists of the early 2010s. Born in Germany but raised in North Carolina, Jermaine Cole grew up with a mother who loved rock and folk, and a father who was a fan of hardcore rap artists like 2Pac and Ice Cube. Cole’s high school grades earned him an academic scholarship to attend St. John’s University in New York City, where Cole knew he could make progress as a musician. After numerous days standing outside Jay-Z’s office in hopes of giving him a demo, Cole finally ran into his idol, but the reception was well below chilly. He was shocked when, weeks later, he received a call from the man, and even more shocked when he got a chance to contribute to his 2009 effort The Blueprint 3. Later that year, Cole released the mixtape The Warm Up, while 2010 saw the appearance of the Friday Night Lights mixtape, with Cole handling most of the production.

In 2011, Roc Nation released his official debut, Cole World: The Sideline Story, which debuted on top of the Billboard 200. Featuring the single “Power Trip,” Born Sinner followed in 2013 with guest appearances from Miguel, TLC, and Kendrick Lamar. Titled after the address of his childhood home, 2014 Forest Hills Drive continued Cole’s streak of number one albums in 2014. Rather strikingly, the album did not feature any guest artists. By the time Cole released his grim fourth album, the chart-topping 4 Your Eyez Only, in 2016, he had platinum certifications for all three of his prior full-lengths, ten charting Hot 100 singles as a top-billed artist, and three as a guest. In early 2018, Cole issued KOD, a dark and reflective cautionary concept that tackled subjects like addiction and personal demons. Topping the charts upon release, KOD included two “features” from Cole in pitched-down form as a hollowed-out addict named kiLL edward.

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