Artist Profile: J. Cole


(Image by Issac Baldizon/NBAE via Getty Images)

Jelani Dupon, Writer

Jermaine Lamarr Cole, or J. Cole, is an American rapper, songwriter, record producer, and record executive. Born in Frankfurt, Germany, to his father who has served in the military, and his mother, Kay. He moved with his family to North Carolina when he was just eight months old. His father left him, his brother, and his mom to live on their own, causing Cole to have a rough childhood. He talked about this in an interview with Esme, saying, “There were days when my mom would have to scrape up nickels and dimes to give me $1.50 for lunch money. And I knew she wasn’t eating lunch that day so that I could.” J. Cole has expressed in interviews and through his music how much his mom means to him and how much he appreciates her. The biggest example of this is in the song “Apparently” from his third, and most popular studio album, 2014s “2014 Forest Hills Drive”. In the song he talks about his childhood and his mother, saying “Think back to Forest Hills, no perfect home, but the only thing like home I’ve ever known until the snatched it from my mama and foreclosed her on her loan, I’m so sorry that I left you there to deal with that alone…” It is apparent that he has regrets, but it’s just as evident that his childhood helped shape his success. “2014 Forest Hills Drive” is J. Coles most successful album, and is one of the most popular albums of the 2010s. As of May 2019 the album became certified triple platinum. The album features really popular songs, such as “Love Yourz” and “No Role Modelz”. “No Role Modelz” is also about his childhood, and how the lack of his father changed his perspective on life, the name speaks for itself. Cole tells his audience through his music that his only role models were fictional characters and this is a sad reality for many. 

That type of lyric and song is J. Cole’s trademark. Yes he makes diss tracks, yes he makes catchy songs, but why so many love Cole is because of how real and honest he is. People are captured by the change from the monotony that rap music can sometimes feed into. Even when Cole seems to feed into the cookie mold of rap, he finds a way to elude it. A great example of this comes in his fifth studio album, 2018s “KOD”. This album features pretty normal songs for the most part, except one, “Kevin’s Heart”. Kevin’s Heart is about when Hart got caught cheating on his wife, Eniko Parrish, with the surface of videos and pictures. Getting full consent with Hart, he was actually in the music video for the song. This is another example of J. Cole’s ability to make catchy music while also making deep tracks that make you look up the lyrics to get the true meaning.

Calling J. Cole just a rapper is an unfair description of his greatness. J. Cole is a vivid poet who just so happens to be in the music industry. Cole is undoubtedly one of the most influential and marketed rappers and celebrities of our generation and is sitting up on top with some of the greatest rappers we’ve seen in a long time. His gift with words isn’t heard, but it is felt The same goes for his compassion and pain, J. Cole won’t be in the music industry forever, but he’s created something that will.