J. Cole may be first known as Jay-Z's protege but he has emerged from the sideline to become a Billboard chart topper. He was born Jermaine Lamarr Cole on January 28, 198 in Frankfurt, Germany on to a European American mother and an African American father. He moved to Fayetteville, North Carolina with his mother when his father left the family.
Cole fascination of rapping started at the age of 14 when J. Money put him in the rap game and his cousin showed him the basics of rhyming and word play. He was an expert in lyrics first before in beats. His mother then bought him a beat machine which helped him to produce his own music. Cole spent the remainder of his teen years as Therapist, posting his music online under the moniker.
In pursuit of a better chance, he moved to New York City as soon as he graduated from high school He enrolled in St. John's University on an academic scholarship where he majored in communication and minored in business, graduating magna cum laude. He was working as a bill collector in the city but his passion laid somewhere else. Cole first came up with a mixtape called "The Come Up" in 2007.
With only courage and determination, Cole stood outside Jay-Z's office building for hours to give him his demo tape. But when the big rapper came out, Cole was shunned. But luck came not long before that. He received a text from an associate who told him that he has a business meeting with Jay-Z to attend.
Jay-Z apparently heard his song "Lights Please". Cole was officially the first artist to be signed to Jay-Z's Roc Nation. "I got the record deal," Cole recalled, "but I still had to learn and improve as far as being ready to drop an album." He was then featured in his mentor's album "The Blueprint 3" on the track "A Star Is Born." From there, Cole was a known collaborator, working with Wale, Talib Kweli, Mos Def, B.o.B and a lot more.
His first single "Who Dat" appeared on the mixtape "The Warm Up". He supported the album with a college tour in 2010. His third official mixtape "Friday Night Lights" was released in November that year, featuring names like Drake and Wale. He then joined Drake as his supporting act in the Light Dreams and Nightmares UK Tour in early 2011. He went on supporting Tinie Tempah and Rihanna in the next few months ahead.
All the while, Cole was preparing for his first studio album. "All singles done. Album ridiculous. Title Perfect. Music incredible. Thank you for your patience. Let's change the game," he tweeted in May 2011. The album is called "Cole World: The Sideline Story" and was released on September 27, 2011. It debuted at No. 1 on Billboard Hot 200 in its first week on sale.
Cole followed up the record with another chart-topping LP, "Born Sinner", which came out in 2013. Featuring hit single "Crooked Smile" as well as appearances from TLC, Kendrick Lamar and Miguel, the album arrived at No. 2 on Billboard 200 with 297,000 copies sold in its first week. It rose to the top spot in its third week on the list.
A year later, Cole returned with "2014 Forest Hills Drive", which was named after a Fayetteville, North Carolina address where his childhood home is located. The album was announced just three weeks before its release. Despite very little marketing and not supported by any single, it debuted at No. 1 on the all-genre albums chart with 353,000 copies in its first week.
"Forest Hills Drive" received positive reviews from critics upon its arrival. It was nominated for the Best Rap Album Award at the 2015 Grammys while its song "Apparently" was nominated for Best Rap Performance. It eventually became Cole's first LP to be certified Platinum by the RIAA.
But his biggest album yet came in 2016. "4 Your Eyez Only", which marked Cole's first release under Interscope, was released on December 9 and made its debut at No. 1 on Billboard 200 with 492,000 units, which included 363,000 in traditional album sales. It logged the third-largest weekly sales for an album in 2016, behind Drake's "Views" and Beyonce Knowles' "Lemonade".
Welcoming 2017, J. Cole released a standalone single entitled "High for Hours" as well as announced that he would embark on a tour called "4 Your Eyez Only World Tour" in support of his fourth studio album. The trek kicked off June 1 in Columbia and wrapped up on December 9 in Perth, Australia. Arie Lennox and Lute served as opening acts for the first leg of the tour, while Andersoon .Paak and rapper Bas opened the second leg of the trek. A documentary titled "J. Cole: 4 Your Eyez Only" was also premiered on YouTube.
Even though Cole did not release any new singles during his time on the road, the rapper was actually secretly working on his fifth studio album, "KOD". He surprised fans on April 16, 2018 with a free listening session for the effort at the Gramercy Theatre in New York City, before holding a second listening session in London on the next day. Touching on various topics including drug abuse, addiction, depression and greed, "KOD" was released on April 20.
The album debuted atop Billboard 200 and broke streaming records on Apple Music with 64.5 million streams, beating Drake's "Views". Cole additionally became the first act to simultaneously debut three songs in the top 10 of Billboard's Hot 100 with "ATM", "Kevin's Heart" and "KOD" charting at No. 6, 8 and 10 respectively.
In support of the album, Cole hit the road for a tour called "KOD Tour" from August 9 to October 10. Young Thug, Jaden Smith and EarthGang served as the supporting acts. For the remainder of the year, he released a single titled "Album of the Year (Freestyle" in addition to announcing a new project titled "The Off Season". In an interview with Billboard, Cole revealed that he planned to take off 2019 from touring to finish work on several projects.
On January 23, 2019, Cole released a new single titled "Middle Child" after posting a series of posts with lines from the song. The song peaked at No. 4 and No. 2 on Billboard's Hot 100 and Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart respectively.