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Born January 28, 1985, as Jermaine Lamarr Cole, J. Cole is a hip hop recording artist and record producer from North Carolina. He initially gained fame after the release of his mixtape, The Come Up, in 2007. Since then, he has signed to Jay-Z’s Roc Nation and has toured the world, establishing himself as an artist to lookout for in the hip hop and rap genre. His fellow musician, Drake, praised his contributions to music and charity in the following words,“You are looking at one of the smartest, greatest, most legendary artists of our generation.”
Cole released his debut album called Cole World: The Sideline Story in 2011 and it peaked at number one on the US Billboard 200. Since then, the young artist has been riding on a wave of success.
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Early Life and Breakthrough
Born in Frankfurt, Germany, at a US army base, Cole was primarily raised by his mother. After being abandoned by their father, Cole, along with his mother and brother, Zach, moved to North Carolina. It was here, in Fayetteville, that Cole managed to find an outlet. He joined the Terry Sanford Orchestra as a violinist and began to teach himself production and rapping, going under different names such as Blaza and Therapist.
Throughout his teenage years, he worked a number of part-time jobs while at the same time developing his production skills. After finishing high school, Cole moved to New York and enrolled himself in St. John’s University. He graduated in 2007, right about the time his debut mixtape came out. It was mainly self-produced and has some rap songs over the beats of Kanye West, Just Blaze and Large Professor. One of the tracks from this mix tape “Lights Please” got the attention of Mark Pitts, who played it to Jay Z. Impressed; Jay Z. signed him up with Roc Nation.
Cole has cited various hip-hop artists as influences when it comes to his rapping style. These include the likes of Tupac Shakur, Jay Z, Nas and Eminem. Jay Z has been one of his biggest inspirations and mentors, even before he signed on to Roc Nation. In addition, artists such as Michael Jackson, Bobby Brown, Kool Moe Dee and The Notorious B.I.G. have also influenced his music.Notable Works and Recognition
After releasing his second mixtape, The Warm Up in 2009, J. Cole released a third mixtape, Friday Night Lights in 2010. This mixtape consisted of songs rejected from Cole’s first studio album. The album, Cole World: The Sideline Story was finally released in 2011 and went on to be certified Platinum. Following this, Cole received a lot of praise from critics and fans alike. The LA Times praised his “satisfying confidence” in terms of his rhymes along with his “slickly inventive beats”.
Going to the Top!
Cole’s second album, Born Sinner, came out in June 2013 and was quite a success. Guest stars on this album were Kendrick Lamar and 50 Cent. The album, however, was not as big a success as it was expected to be. But with the momentum building, mainstream success was right around the corner for this rising star. In December 2014, J. Cole released 2014 Forest Hills Drive. The album premiered at number one on the Billboard 200 charts and became Cole’s first album to sell more than a million copies, even though singles were not released beforehand. More success followed as the album won several awards, including the Billboard Rap Album of the Year award. The album went on to receive a double Platinum status, which was impressive, since there were no guest appearances on the album.
Next up was his fourth studio album, called 4 Your Eyez Only. This album was released just before the 2016 Christmas and also hit no. 1 on the charts despite some controversial lyrics involving Kanye West and Drake.
Awards and Honors
In a short amount of time, J. Cole has managed to gain a huge fan following. He has been nominated for various awards, including the American Music Awards, the BET Awards, the Billboard Music Awards, the iHeartRadio Music Awards, MTV Video Music Awards and the Soul Train Music Awards. In addition, he has also been nominated for the prestigious Grammy Awards in various categories, such as Best New Artist, Best Rap/Sung Collaboration for “Power Trip”, Best Rap Album for 2014 Forest Hills Drive, Best Rap Performance for “Apparently” and Best R&B Performance for “Planes”. He has also won many awards for his contributions to the field of rap and hip hop.
In addition to music, J. Cole has ventured into other areas as well. He started his own label by the name of Dreamville Records, with his former classmate, Ibrahim Hamad and has launched artists such as Omen, Cozz and Bass. Besides starting a record company, J. Cole also established a non-profit organization aimed to
“bridge the gap between the worlds of opportunity and the urban youth of Fayetteville, NC.”
The organization runs a series of events such as essay contests and reading clubs.
What’s Next for J Cole?
J. Cole is currently on a transatlantic tour spanning 57 cities across North America, UK and Europe. The tour started in June 2017 and will last till December 2017. The 4 Your Eyez Only tour promises to be the biggest tour by the hip hop artist to date. Performances will take place at the Koln Palladium in Koln, the Stadhalle Offenbach in Offenbach and at the Barclaycard Arena in Birmingham, all in October 2017.
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