A rapper that doesn’t nearly get enough credit as he should get is one Jermaine Lamarr Cole. Otherwise known as J. Cole to the masses, J. Cole has been doing his thing on the mic for awhile now, but really came into his own in 2013 after the release of his sophomore album, Born Sinner. J. Cole touched down in NYC last night for a concert at The Theater at MSG. The concert was sold out. The artist, songwriter, and record producer from Fayettsville, North Carolina has come a long way in a short amount of time. Selling out a concert in NYC is a big deal for any artist, especially for one who has been on his grind from the jump. The first time you may have heard J. Cole was on Jay Z’s track “A Star is Born,” off Jay’s 2009 Blueprint 3 album. From the second that song hits, you knew this kid was going to be something. His verses on that track were so hard and direct that you had to stop and take notice. But what you may not have known is that J.Cole has been steady mobbin in the game of hip hop since 2007. He released two mixtapes The Come Up (in 2007) and The Warm Up. (in 2009) The latter caught the attention of Jay Z. After appearing on various artists albums such as Talib Kweli, B.o.B., and touring with Wiz Khalifa across colleges, the young MC was getting his chops right for front page dominance. He laced ill verses on Miguel’s “All I Want is You,” and Young Chris’ “Still the Hottest,” and he released his own underground hit, “Who Dat.” In 2010 J. Cole got signed to Jay Z’s Roc Nation and dropped his third official mix tape Friday Night Lights. A star was truly being born in front of our eyes at the time. Jay Z knew it. Jermaine Cole knew it too.
With a new label and a big time boss, the game was now about to change for Jermaine. He knew that if he wanted to be seen as one of the greats he had to sharpen his claws and get consistent with his music. He dropped his debut album Cole World: The Sideline Story on September 27, 2011. The album was certified gold in December of that year. J. Cole was nominated for a Best New Artist Grammy that following year, that he ended up losing to Bon Iver. Eager to get back in the studio, J.Cole was hungry to work on the follow up to Cole World. His latest project was titled Born Sinner, and to establish himself as a true competitor in the rap game he decided to release the album the same day as Kanye West did for his latest album, Yeezus. J. Cole went on to say, “This is art, and I can’t compete against the Kanye West celebrity and the status that he’s earned just from being a genius. But I can put my name in the hat and tell you that I think my album is great and you be the judge and let you decide.” That type of confidence is what makes J. Cole who is today. The album was primarily produced by J. Cole himself and featured appearances from Miguel, Amer Coffman, TLC, 50 Cent, Jhene Aiko, and James Fauntleroy. Born Sinner debuted at number 2 on the Bilboard 200 and has sold over 700,000 copies, becoming J. Cole’s second hit Gold album.
Born Sinner showcases J. Cole’s insane lyrical skills, sharp wit, and raw ability. The album has been supported by four very strong commercial singles, “Power Trip” (featuring Miguel) that was recently nominated for a Grammy, “Forbidden Fruit,” (featuring Kendrick Lamar) “Crooked Smile,” (featuring TLC) and “She Knows.” (featuring Amber Coffman of the Dirty Projectors) The album has been critically acclaimed across many major publications and he is currently supporting Born Sinner on the What Dreams May Come Tour, which just touched down at the Theater at Madison Square Garden yesterday. This is J. Cole’s first headlining tour. He is being backed by a full band (the new trend in hip hop) and seems to really be coming into his own as an artist. 2013 was J. Cole’s coming out party. He let the world know that he needs to be in the discussion of top emcee’s in the game right now. He battled Yeezus and came off with a lot of respect. That was a risky maneveur. That could have backfired greatly, instead it gained him more respect from the hip hop community. The new generation of emcee’s featuring himself, Kendrick Lamar, Drake, 2 Chainz, Asap Rocky, and many others, just to name a few, will be sure to keep hip hop headed in the right direction over the next decade. They are all extremely talented artists. Cole has learned from the best and is focused on establishing a career in which he will be remembered. He is a thinking man’s emcee. He can drop a party joint with the drop of a dime, but Cole is going to hit you with thought provoking lyrics that will make you scratch your head and say, did he just say that? Turns out, he did, and he did that all over this last record. He also continues to shine on guest appearances whenever he can. Did you hear his verse on Justin Timberlake’s “TKO” (remix)? It’s vicious. Jay Z and Kendrick Lamar both stopped by the Theater yesterday to show their love to J. Cole and take the stage with the Born Sinner. Ascension to the big boy table is never guarteneed in hip hop. It takes a lot of hard work and determination to maintain your place. But J. Cole understands this and is not one to accept failure. He understands and respects the history of hip hop. He has followed the legends closely, keeps an eye on his peers, and is in firm control of his future. He has matured as a producer and a songwriter and should only continue to get better as he continues to challenge himself musically. As long as he continues to crush mics on the regular, look out for J. Cole to become an even bigger name in 2014.
Jay Z joins J. Cole on stage. Passes off his original ROC chain to his protege.
J. Cole rips “Forebidden Fruit” with Kendrick Lamar