By NICOLE LOSEK, A&E Editor
Jermaine Lamarr Cole, J. Cole. The hip-hop artist and record producer has proven with his four albums and countless projects that he is well respected in the hip-hop culture.
The musical career for this renowned rapper started at age 12. By the time he was 15 years old, Cole began making beats on the ASR-X his mom got him for Christmas.
Before music became his life, Cole graduated high school and accepted an academic scholarship to St. John’s University in New York. He originally started out as a computer science major, but later made the switch to communications.
In 2007, Cole graduated with a 3.8 GPA and honored as a magna cum laude. Listen closely in the track “Villuminati” and he addresses some regret.
Jump to 2009, Cole released his first two mixtapes, “The Come Up” and “The Warm Up.” From these projects, he found himself featured on several tracks throughout that year. He appeared on Jay-Z’s “The Blueprint 3,” Wale’s “Attention Deficit” and also found himself working with Mos Def among others.
In 2010, Cole found himself featured on XXL Magazine’s Top Ten Freshman. Later that year, his third mixtape was released: “Friday Night Lights.” The mixtape included features from Drake among others and the production was all in the hands of Cole himself. His production skills did not go unnoticed, a year later, Cole produced “HiiiPower” off of Kendrick Lamar’s debut album, “Section.80.”
Finally, in September of 2011, J. Cole’s debut album “Cole World: The Sideline Story” dropped. The album debuted at number one on the U.S. Billboard 200 Chart and was certified gold by the RIAA by December.
For his second debut album “Born Sinner,” Cole explains how he went back to pen and paper for his lyrics. Before the release of his sophomore album, he dropped an EP, “Truly Yours,” that consisted of five songs he said weren’t going to make it on the album.
The release date for “Born Sinner” was set for June 25, 2013, but after finding out Kanye West was dropping “Yeezus” June 18, Cole made the move to switch his release date to compete with West.
“This is art, and I can’t compete against the Kanye West celebrity and the status that he’s earned just from being a genius,” Cole told MTV. “But I can put my name in the hat and tell you that I think my album is great and you be the judge and you decide.”
“Born Sinner” ended up debuting at number two on the Billboard 200 chart, selling about 30,000 copies less than Kanye’s “Yeezus.”
Cole’s third studio album, “2014 Forest Hills Drive,” was the first hip-hop album in 25 years to be certified platinum without any features. This album brought major success for Cole–winning Top Rap Album at the 2015 Billboard Music Awards and Album of the Year at the 2015 BET Hip Hop Awards. In addition to that, “2014 Forest Hills Drive” was nominated at the 58th Annual Grammy Awards for Best Rap album and the single “Apparently” was nominated for Best Rap Performance.
In December of 2015, it was announced that Cole was working on a documentary series titled “J. Cole: Road to Homecoming” that would be released before his HBO special, “Forest Hills Drive: Homecoming.”
Two years ago we got Cole’s fourth studio album, “4 Your Eyez Only.” The album was released with a 40 minute documentary, ‘Eyez’, that included footage of working on the album and two songs that are not included on the album.
‘4 Your Eyez Only’ debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 chart. The track “Deja Vu” hit number 7 on the Billboard Hot 100 without being released as a single, making it Cole’s highest charting song.
On “Deja Vu”, Cole raps over the beat on Bryson Tiller’s single “Exchange.” Controversy struck up after this song on who made the beat first, but Dreamsville president, Ibrahim Hamad, told Billboard that the beat was originally produced for “2014 Forest Hills Drive” before “Exchange” came out.
This 32-year-old rapper has had a wildly successful career so far, and signs of letting up are slim to none. It’s been two years since “4 Your Eyez Only,” so maybe J. Cole will blindside us with new music soon. Who knows, let’s hope so.