The Story of J. Cole: A Biography

J. Cole.

Henry Adaso/ThoughtCo.

Name: Jermaine Lamarr Cole
Born: January 28, 1985

Interesting Facts:

  • J. Cole was born in Frankfurt, Germany. At 8 months old he and his mother moved to Fayetteville, North Carolina. Cole often shouts out his hometown dubbed "the Ville."
  • Attended St. John's University and graduated Magna Cum Laude.
  • Was working as a bill collector when he got the call that Jay Z wanted to meet with him. He went into the bathroom to listen to the message. He decided to leave work in order to prepare for the meeting.

Introduction to Music:

J. Cole’s cousin introduced him to rap at the age of 12. While visiting from Louisiana his cousin would joke around and freestyle, Cole was inspired to copy him and fell in love with rapping. Drawn to storytelling rap and inspired by rappers such as Nas, Canibus, and Eminem, began filling notebooks with rhymes. Cole learned to make beats on an 808 drum machine his mother bought for him and started posting songs on internet forums by the age of 17, under the name, “Therapist”.

Mixtape Marvel:

After graduating college J. Cole released his debut mixtape in 2007. He named it The Come Up, a nod to his underground status. The Come Up, which was hosted by DJ On Point, featured soulful sound beats, raw and energetic drums, and an endless range of topics.

J. Cole rapped about everything from the carefree days of college to the seemingly unending plight of the have-nots scrapping for change.

In 2009, he followed up with The Warm Up. This mixtape explored similar themes but with sharper lyrics.

Up next, Cole released Friday Night Lights. This time, his mixtape featured many songs originally intended for his debut album. Among these was the seductive, Drake-assisted single "In the Morning."

The Road to the Roc:

J. Cole had always harbored dreams of collaborating with Jay Z. Early in his career J. Cole set his sights on working with Jigga someday. One cold rainy night, in 2007, Cole donned a shirt that read: “Produce for Jay Z or die trying." He stood outside of Jay-Z’s studio for three hours in order to give him a beat he sampled by Idris Muhammad.

Unfortunately for Cole, Jay Z wasn’t interested. Hov simply responded, “Man, I don’t want that.” Two years later, after hearing "Lights Please," Jay Z asked J. Cole if he'd like to be the first artist signed to Roc Nation. Jay Z showcased his new signee on "A Star Is Born," off 2009's The Blueprint 3

Cole World: The Sideline Story:

After several delays, J. Cole finally saw his Roc Nation debut come to light on September 27, 2011. The songs and skits on Cole World: The Sideline Story chronicle Cole's journey from the "Ville" to the Roc. It's a concept album about leaping from the sideline to the spotlight against all odds.

2014 Forest Hills Drive

In December 2014, J. Cole released his third album 2014 Forest Hills Drive. The album took its title from J. Cole's childhood home address in Fayetteville, North Carolina, where he lived with his mother, his brother, and his stepfather.

J. Cole In His Own Words:

"I'm here to spread a message of hope. Follow your heart. Don't follow what you've been told you're supposed to do."

J. Cole's Discography


  • The Come Up (2007)
  • The Warm Up (2009)
  • Friday Night Lights (2010)
  • 2014 Forest Hills Drive (2014)

Studio albums:

  • Cole World: The Sideline Story (2011)