Jermaine Lamarr Cole, better known as “J. Cole,” has recently emerged on the rap music scene with the tremendous success of his third album, 2014 Forest Hills Drive. His songs are often compared to those of Kendrick Lamar in that they tell well-written, comprehensive stories and are almost more lyrical poems than stereotypical rap songs. Here are 10 interesting facts about J. Cole:
1) J. Cole is the first rapper to go platinum in 25 years without features.
2014 Forest Hills Drive debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 and reached Platinum status. The entire album is composed of songs that solely feature J. Cole, making it a exhibition of unadulterated talent that is worthy of such a status.
2) He received his diploma from his alma mater, St. John’s University, more than seven years after graduating because of library fines.
Cole graduated magna cum laude from the university with a major in communications and minor in business. He never received his diploma when he graduated, because he owed money for a library book he had never returned. He explained this in an interview by saying, “If you have any outstanding fees, that translates to money. There’s a price associated with it. I never paid. That’s why I don’t have my degree.” J. Cole officially received the diploma earlier in 2015 during a homecoming concert at St. John’s.
3) Cole faces many of the same identity issues shared by people of mixed race decent.
In an interview with XXL magazine, J. Cole opened up about having an African American father and Caucasian mother. He said, “I can identify with white people, because I know my mother, her side of the family, who I love. I’ve had white friends. I know people from high school that I might not have hung out with outside of high school, but I think I got to know them pretty well, so I know they sense of humor. But at the end of the day, I never felt white. I don’t know what that feels like. I can identify. But never have I felt like I’m one of them. Not that I wanted to, or tried to, but it just was what it was. I identify more with what I look like, because that’s how I got treated. Not necessarily in a negative way. But when you get pulled over by the police, I can’t pull out my half-White card. Or if I just meet you on the street you’re not gonna be like, ‘This guy seems half-White.’”
4) He established his own nonprofit organization in 2011 called The Dreamville Foundation.
The Foundation’s goals are to improve the lives of urban youth in his hometown of Fayetteville, North Carolina. The Foundation has executed numerous projects with success, including book club initiatives and a back-to-school giveaway with over 500 backpacks donated to the community. J. Cole was able to purchase his childhood home in Fayetteville for $120,000 in 2014 through The Dreamville Foundation and plans to use it to house single mothers and their children for free.
5) Cole became serious about rapping at age 15 and joined a local group called Bomm Sheltuh.
The group Bomm Sheltuh, which plays on the words “bomb shelter,” was also composed of rappers Nervous Reck and FilthE Ritch. J. Cole’s stage name during this era was “Therapist.”
6) One of J. Cole’s first jobs was at a skating rink in Fayetteville.
As a teenager, J. Cole worked at a skating rink and often had to dress up as the business’ mascot, a kangaroo. We unfortunately don’t have pictures of J. Cole in the costume, but we also hope that they surface soon.
7) Cole’s influences include Tupac, Nas, Canibus, and Eminem.
He has repeatedly been compared to rapper Nas and even addresses this comparison in the song “Let Nas Down.”
8) Besides rap and music production, J. Cole also is skilled at the guitar and violin.
The clip above actually shows J. Cole playing the violin. He was first chair violin in the Terry Sanford High School orchestra as a teenager and studied guitar under artist Mark Ebert.
9) In college, J. Cole was president of Haraya, the pan-African student coalition.
J. Cole never had the chance to play basketball at St. John’s, but he was still heavily active in extracurriculars and student groups such as Haraya.
10) While living in New York City, he got a job as a youth basketball coach in Queens.
He coached kids ages 9-13 and describes the experience by saying, “They struck me as the type of kids whose parents had money. They were terrible, but I enjoyed it. Even though they sucked.