J. Cole is a rapper and producer who signed on with Jay Z's Roc Nation in 2009 and has produced for artists like Kendrick Lamar and Janet Jackson.
J. Cole is an MC and producer who has achieved phenomenal success over the last few years, a result of the long hours he spent grinding hard on the mixtape scene and sharing songs on internet forums. Since signing to Jay Z’s Roc Nation, he has toured worldwide, sold huge amounts of records, produced for Kendrick Lamar and even come to the attention of Barack Obama. Along with establishing his own nonprofit foundation, he keeps up a busy release schedule. No wonder Drake paid him the highest compliment: “You are looking at one of the smartest, greatest, most legendary artists of our generation.”
Jermaine Lamarr Cole was born on January 28, 1985, at a U.S. Army base in Frankfurt, then in West Germany. His father, an African-American soldier, left his mother, a white German postal worker, when Cole was a baby. She moved with him and his older brother, Zach, to Fayetteville, North Carolina, where the family lived in trailer parks as she struggled to make ends meet.
His mom eventually remarried — Cole's stepfather was also in the Army — and the family relocated to a nicer home. However, the marriage crumbled and the family lost the house as Cole was about to leave for college. His stepfather had become abusive, particularly toward Zach; after the marriage ended, Cole's mother became addicted to crack under the influence of a new boyfriend.
It was in Fayetteville that Cole's passion for music found an early outlet when he joined the Terry Sanford Orchestra as a violinist. He also began to teach himself rapping and production, rapping first as Blaza, then as Therapist — “We used to look through the dictionary for rap names,” he recalled later — before hooking up with a local group called Bomm Sheltuh.
He held down a number of part-time jobs as a teenager while he honed his production skills, including a stint at an ice hockey rink where he had to dress up as a kangaroo mascot. After graduating from high school, Cole moved to New York and attended St John’s University, graduating magna cum laude in 2007 with a degree in communications.