Jermaine Lamarr Cole (born January 28, 1985 in Frankfurt am Main, Germany), known by his stage name J. Cole or King Cole, is a U.S. rapper, music producer and basketball player. He was the first artist signed to Jay-Z’s record label Roc Nation.
J. Cole started rapping at the age of 13, when his cousin showed him the basics of rhyming and wordplay. Cole was most inspired by rapper Tupac Shakur, but also by other artists such as Notorious B.I.G., Canibus, Nas, Eminem and Jay-Z. Cole developed a love for stories in his lyrics. At the age of 15, J. Cole had several notebooks filled with different rhymes, but he didn’t own any beats to put together with the rhymes. His mother then bought him a Roland TR-808 beat machine, which eventually allowed Cole to produce his own music. At the age of 17, Cole broadcast his songs on various Internet forums under the nickname “Therapist.” J. Cole stood outside Jay-Z’s label building for three hours to show him a beat he sampled from Idris Muhammad so Jay-Z could sign him. However, Jay-Z shunned up-and-coming rappers. Before J. Cole was signed by Roc Nation, he worked as a wholesaler. One morning, he looked at his cell phone and noticed that he had received a message from a co-worker telling J. Cole to call him back. He went to the bathroom to respond to the message because he was not allowed to use his cell phone privately at his workplace. When J. Cole called the employee back, the employee said that J. Cole had gotten a call from Jay-Z’s management and that he should meet with them as soon as possible. J. Cole decided not to stay at work any longer and went to change and get ready for his meeting.
J. Cole wrote via Twitter on May 4, 2011: “All singles done. Album ridiculous. Title perfect. Music incredible. Thank you for your patience. Let’s change the game.”. J. Cole kept the title of his debut album a secret for fear of inconsistency. He announced that Jay-Z would be featured on the album. On September 27, 2011, his album Cole World: The Sideline Story was released. During Cole’s last performance on Rihanna’s Loud Tour in Barbados, Cole filmed the music video for his second single Can’t Get Enough with Trey Songz (who appears as a guest musician in the song) and Rihanna. The album was released on the same date. On June 18, 2013, his second album Born Sinner was released to high expectations, reaching number one on the American Billboard 200 chart after three weeks. Aria Nejati wrote for Hiphop.de that the album showed “hardly any weaknesses” and that J. Cole “does what he does incredibly well”. The only thing he could be criticized for was “the lack of diversity in his choice of topics”. Overall, Cole “shows on his second album above all that he continues to develop at an enormously fast pace.”. On December 9, 2014, J. Cole released his third studio album, 2014’s Forest Hills Drive, after announcing it just three weeks earlier. The album debuted at number one on the U.S. Billboard charts and became J. Cole’s first album to reach platinum status in just under four months. The album was released on December 1, 2016. On December 1, 2016, the cover for the fourth studio album 4 Your Eyez Only was released, which was then released on December 9 with ten songs and went platinum in the United States. On April 17, 2018, the fifth studio album KOD was announced via Twitter, at the same time announcing the date.
As a co-writer and guest rapper on the song A Lot by 21 Savage, he was awarded Best Rap Song at the 2020 Grammy Awards.