Artist to Know: J.Cole
“Who Dat” the first official single J.Cole released in 2010 topped the billboard charts, but that wasn’t his last time. Born Jermaine Lamarr Cole to an African-American father and a white mother in Frankfurt, Germany, Cole and his mother quickly moved to Fayetteville, North Carolina before he turned 1. With a love for music at a young age, J.Cole became a product of the internet mixtape rapper generation but his passion led him to the top. While Cole was a teenager he knew he had the rhymes to be a rapper but he couldn’t just rap over other producers beats so he started to make his own. Rapping about growing up with a single mother in North Carolina became the main focus of his lyrics.
With a strong musical sense, Cole started perfecting his beat making and released songs on many internet forums going by the name, “Therapist.” While his songs received downloads, his path to stardom was not that easy so Cole relied on his academics to accept a scholarship at St. Johns University where his music career would have a better chance of taking off in the music capital that is New York City. Cole often tells a story in his early music about a time when he waited 3 hours to see Jay-Z walk out of a building and when he finally did he ignored Cole’s presence. After graduating magna cum laude, Cole released his first mixtape in 2007 called “The Come Up,” while this mixtape had potential, Cole did not receive the amount of downloads and notice he expected. In June 2009 Cole dropped his second mixtape, “The Warm Up” which really put him at the top of the online music forums with songs like “Lights Please” and “Dreams.” A collection of R&B sounding rap songs with intelligent lyrics about his come up and rise.
After hearing “Light’s Please,” the once shunned J.Cole got a meeting with the heralded Jay-Z and signed as the first artist on his new Roc Nation label. After realizing a dream fulfilled, J.Cole started touring the country and released his third and last official mixtape in 2010 and by my account his best work called, “Friday Night Lights.” Producing almost the whole album, combining strong lyrical songs with dancing club songs, J.Cole truly shows his versatility as an artist. Particularly in the song “Blow Up,” Cole announces himself to the world as the next big thing in a song that gets your body moving to the beat.
Cole’s ability to create new material without falling victim to basic rap stereotypes such as rapping about drugs and guns is something I truly admire. He raps about real life and tries to relate to his audience as much as possible. The struggle he went throw pierces through his music like a shooting arrow. Since signing to the ROC, he has released two studio albums “Cole World: The Sideline Story” (2011) and “Born Sinner”(2013) with features like Drake, Kendrick Lamar, Jay-Z, and even TLC. Both albums received critical acclaim debuting at number 1 and 2 on the billboard charts in their first week, however, true J.Cole fans feel a sense of commercialism involved with the songs on the studio albums compared to Cole’s mixtapes. The songs are still great but J. Cole clearly tries to attract a larger audience on them perhaps for radio play. Therefore, I highly recommend giving J.Cole a listen, especially his older stuff.