28 years ago, Jermaine Lamarr Cole was born in Germany to an African-American man from the US Army and a white mother. After relocating to North Carolina, his father eventually left the family and his mother raised him from a young age. Growing up in a multi-ethnic environment, Jermaine studied guitar, played basketball, and idolized Canibus and 2Pac in his love for rap music. By age 15, he had books filled with scribbled lyrics, but needed production to make music. Ever supportive, his mom bought him an 808 and he started posting music under the alias, “Therapist.”
With high school graduation looming over his head in 2003, he decided to only apply to NYU and St. John’s so he could get his music career started in the Big Apple. On an academic scholarship, he headed to New York to study at St. John’s and ended up majoring in communications. And minoring in business. And graduating magna cum laude. Fast forward to November 2008, where after weeks of hounding Jay-Z, he finally lands a meeting with Hova. They play five songs in the course of three hours and in 2009, J. Cole became the first artist to sign to Roc Nation. “Lights Please” was the track that got Jigga’s head bobbing, and the rest is history.
I’m a firm believer that music production can be more integral to success than the actual voice of an artist. Cue a Britney Spears vocal over “that Neptunes sound” that got your body moving, but realize that anyone could have made that song a hit. She didn’t even write the lyrics. But this is what makes J.Cole different from the new wave of rappers that hit us a few years ago. He raps, writes, and produces most of his music. That sheer trifecta of talent clarifies that he is not an A&R creation based on what would sell records. He’s a creation of his own drive and intensity that has propelled him to a stage that helped him sell 218,000 records of Cole World: The Sideline Story in its first week. In anticipation of Born Sinner releasing on June 18th, here are some of the songs that made me a believer in Jermaine Lamarr Cole.
[J. Cole || Lost Ones]
Even though this was on his debut album, BB Gun shot this video before J. Cole was even signed in 2008. The raw emotion enough makes this a song that wrenches at your heart while also sympathizing with Cole’s past.
[J. Cole || Who Dat]
I don’t think this was an ode to JT Money, but BB Gun hits us with another beautifully crafted video that took days of practice to execute. Plus, the Andre 3000 snippet is perfect for Jermaine.
[J. Cole ft. Miguel || Power Trip]
The first single off the upcoming album was a guaranteed hit. Miguel is the new Prince, but also the Nate Dogg of this year with every feature he sings on becoming a hit.
If you’re still impatient, you can DL the Truly Yours 2 EP for free here. Luckily, Lauryn Hill can’t sue him since she’s in jail.