The world is just getting to know J. Cole, but the hip hop world has been well aware of Jermaine for over three years. While hip hop fans may know a bit about J. Cole, few know the overall story. J. Cole, while from the South, does not fit the stereotypical mold of being a rapper from the South.
Since the age of fourteen, J. Cole has been rapping. While he grew up in a tough city, J. Cole kept his head in the books. This led to him going to St. John’s University on an academic scholarship. During this time, J. Cole often displayed his raps and songs. Upon graduating, he released his debut mixtape.
His debut mixtape, The Come Up, gained acclaim for the single, “Lights Please.” The song helped establish J. Cole as an artst and it eventually was heard by Jay-Z. At the time, Jay-Z was preparing to leave his longtime home, Roc-A-Fella/Def Jam, for his new label, Roc Nation. One clause in his contract with Def Jam was Jay-Z having to leave his Roc-A-Fella artists behind.
Needing to start fresh, Jay-Z was looking for fresh talent, so he signed J. Cole in 2008. Jay-Z spent most of 2008 establishing his Roc Nation label. In 2009, Jay-Z started working on The Blueprint 3. J. Cole decided to keep himself hot and he released his second mixtape, The Warm Up. The mixtape also contained “Lights Please” and was met with more critical acclaim than most of the albums released in 2009. After releasing two successful mixtapes, many fans were wondering when J. Cole’s debut album would be released.
J. Cole promised fans his debut album would be released in 2010. Before the summer, J. Cole released a single, “Who Dat.” The song received massive radio play in his native, North Carolina. “Who Dat” also did well in other markets, but no album release date was scheduled. With Roc Nation shifting their focus to the young daughter of Will Smith, Willow Smith, J. Cole released another mixtape. Friday Night Lights was also met with a strong critical reaction, but no album came.
Despite not having an album out, J. Cole’s mixtapes were doing very well and he had songs in radio rotation, even music videos. Aside from his own work, many mainstream artists were featuring J. Cole on their albums. While the collaborations and mixtapes were nice, fans still patiently waited on J. Cole to release his debut album. During the summer of 2011, J. Cole said his album would be released on September 27 and not a day later.
But, with no music being released, many were beginning to give up on J. Cole. It was then when J. Cole prepared to release Cole World: The Sideline Story. Now, J. Cole is one of the biggest names in overall entertainment. With his album not even a month old, J. Cole is already working on his second album. Much like his mentor, Jay-Z, J. Cole intends to release a new album every year. On the mixtape level, J. Cole managed to give fans a new release every other year, with his singles keeping the fans entertained.