ARTIST PROFILE

J.Cole

Name: Jermaine Lamarr Cole

Birthday: January 28th, 1985

Fav Dish: Lobster Mac and Cheese

Jermaine Lamarr Cole, better known by his stage name J. Cole, is an American hip hop recording artist and record producer. Raised in Fayetteville, North Carolina.

Jermaine Lamarr Cole was born on January 28, 1985, at an American military base in Frankfurt, West Germany. His father is an African-American veteran, who served in the U.S. Army, and his mother is a white European American who worked as a postal worker for the United States Postal Service. Cole’s father later abandoned the family during his youth, prompting his mother to relocate Cole and his brother, Zach Cole to Fayetteville, North Carolina. Cole grew up in a multi-ethnic environment, and when asked about how closely his ethnicity impacts him, Cole commented, “I can identify with white people because I know my mother, her side of the family, who I love. But at the end of the day, [I’ve] never felt white. I can identify [with white people] but never have I felt like I’m one of them. I identify more with what I look like because that’s how I got treated [but] not necessarily in a negative way”. During his youth, Cole expressed an affinity for basketball and music and served as a first-chair violinist for the Terry Sanford Orchestra until 2003.

Cole began rapping at the age of twelve and saw it as an ideal profession in 2000 when his mother purchased an ASR-X musical sampler as a Christmas gift. During this period, Cole heightened emphasis on improving his production skills, later beginning initial production under the pseudonym Therapist. Cole later collaborated with local group Bomm Sheltuh, rapping and producing as a member of the group.

Upon graduating high school with a 4.2 GPA, Cole decided that his chances of securing a recording contract would be better in New York City. He moved there and accepted a scholarship to St. John’s University. Initially majoring in computer science, Cole later switched to communication and business after witnessing the life of a lonely computer science professor. At the college, Cole was the president of Haraya, a pan-African student coalition. He graduated magna cum laude in 2007, with a 3.8 GPA. Despite graduating, Cole would officially receive his degree during a homecoming concert in 2015, revealing that he had owed money for a library book, causing the university to hold back from granting him his degree.

Cole later worked in various part-time jobs in Fayetteville, including a working ad salesman for a newspaper, a bill collector, a file clerk, and a kangaroo mascot at a skating rink.

Cole initially gained recognition as a rapper following the release of his debut mixtape, The Come Up, in early-2007. Intent on further pursuing a solo career as a rapper, he went on to release two additional mixtapes after signing to Jay-Z’s Roc Nation imprint in 2009.

Cole released his debut studio album, Cole World: The Sideline Story, in 2011. It debuted at number one on the U.S. Billboard 200 and was soon certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). His next two releases, 2013’s Born Sinner and 2014’s 2014 Forest Hills Drive, received mostly positive reviews from critics while being both certified platinum in the United States. The latter earned him his first Grammy Award nomination for Best Rap Album. In December 2016, Cole released his fourth studio album 4 Your Eyez Only. The album debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 chart and was certified platinum in April 2017. His fifth album, KOD, was released in April 2018.

Self-taught on piano, Cole also acts as a producer alongside his hip-hop career, producing singles for artists such as Kendrick Lamar and Janet Jackson, as well as handling the majority of the production in his own projects. He has also developed other ventures, including Dreamville Records, as well as a non-profit organization called the Dreamville Foundation. In January 2015, Cole decided to house single mothers rent-free at his childhood home in Fayetteville, North Carolina.

Cole has cited several hip-hop artists as influencing his rapping style, including Tupac Shakur, Jay Z, Eminem, Nas, and Andre 3000. He described in an interview with Steve Lobel, “Jay was a mentor before I ever signed to him.” “I studied his moves that much…I got to go on tour with him and steal a lot of gems. That’s how you supposed to do it. You’re supposed to learn and take pieces from the greatest. So, Jay was my mentor before I ever signed to him. And now that I signed to him it’s just a blessing to be able to hit him for advice and get that real 20 years of experience or however long he been in the game. It’s priceless.”My favorite rapper was Pac,” he said. “He was my favorite rapper before I even started rapping. Before I even thought of-It went from Michael Jackson, Bobby Brown as a kid and artists like that. Even Kool Moe Dee. Just the cool dude that I looked up to. And then one day my stepfather came home from-I don’t know if he was back from Desert Storm…I remember him coming home with that first Pac album. With “Brenda’s Got A Baby”. It was 2Pacalypse Now. And since then-When I was too young to know what he was talking about, but it connected. Cause that’s the thing about art. It’s just truth. It’s straight-Whatever you feel. So, even as a seven-year-old kid, an eight-year-old kid I could hear Pac’s early albums and feel the truth.” Cole drew comparisons to Nas following the release of Friday Night Lights, stating that Nas served as the primary inspiration behind the creation of the mixtape. Cole later addressed their musical similarities on “Let Nas Down”, a song written and composed due to his disparaging comments towards “Work Out”. As a response to this record, Nas came out with the song “Made Nas Proud” shortly after.

In 2014, in an interview with Angie Martinez, Cole listed Tupac, The Notorious B.I.G., Nas and Jay Z as his top four rappers of all time, with André 3000 and Eminem being a toss-up for fifth.

In a January 2016 interview with director Ryan Coogler, Cole revealed that he was married. His wife, Melissa Heholt, attended St. John’s University with Cole; she is the Executive Director of the Dreamville Foundation.

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