Jermaine Cole (born January 28, 1985 in Fayetteville, North Carolina), better known simply as J. Cole, is an American rapper and producer best known for being the first artist signed to Jay-Z’s Roc Nation label after Jay heard his song Lights Please. J. Cole released his debut mixtape, The Come Up in 2007 and followed it up with 2009’s The Warm Up. He is set to release his debut album in 2010, and started the year well covering both The Source and Beyond Race magazines, as well as being featured as one of XXL’s 2010 Freshmen. Cole appeared on Jay-Z’s album The Blueprint 3, on the track A Star Is Born, and is also featured on labelmate Wale’s debut album, Attention Deficit. Most recently, he was touring with Jay-Z, Young Jeezy and Trey Songz on The Blueprint 3 tour. In January 2010, along with Jay Electronica and Mos Def, he appeared on the first single from the new Reflection Eternal album, Just Begun.
The rap world is at a crossroads. In the face of shrinking budgets, music executives rest on their laurels, searching for the next YouTube sensation with a catchy hook and dance move in order to amass digital single sales. While many artists have tried to break through despite an industry melt down, few have been met with critical praise. And the applause for those that have has not been loud enough to sway the course of the current rap market. Looking to excel where his contemporaries have failed, North Carolina native J. Cole brings promise of a new day in hip hop music.
Raised by his mother in North Carolina, J. Cole’s hometown of Fayetteville would provide much of the sights and experiences that would come to shape his sound. Cole fell into rapping at the age of 12 when his cousin from Louisiana spent the summer in Fayetteville, showing him the basics of rhyming. He was instantly hooked. From there he delved deep into the music of hip hop luminaries including Tupac Shakur, Nas and Outkast, taking from them a love for telling stories with an unbridled rigor. Seizing every opportunity to write, at age 15 J. Cole found himself with composition notebooks full of rhymes but no beats of his own to lay them on. Determined to create original songs, he begged his mother for a beat machine so he could produce music solely for himself. She granted his wish and from there, a young Cole spent all his free time creating sounds and songs that would lay the foundation for what his style has evolved to today.
Feeling the need to be heard, J. Cole used college as a tool to chase his dreams. He attended St. John’s University on an academic scholarship, choosing the school so that he could be in the heart of the music industry: New York City. After polishing his sound and graduating Magna Cum Laude, J. Cole is dropping his debut mixtape, properly titled “The Come Up” hosted by DJ On Point. A mash up of dusty, soul filled sound beds, raw, energetic drums and an endless range of topics—everything from the carefree days of college to the seemingly endless plight of those have-nots scrapping for change—The Come Up puts J. Cole’s broad palette of lyrical and production talents on display. “All a nigga wanna do is take his momma from that, but they rather lock us up and make sure we don’t come back,” he vehemently spits over the cascading keys and triumphant strings of the self produced “Lil’ Ghetto Nigga.”
With such a diverse display, J. Cole is poised to wake up a dormant industry and cement his name in this game. But more than that, with his debut studio album currently in production, he hopes to change the tide of current rap music, swaying it in a more insightful, meaningful and passionate direction.