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.
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.
Jermaine says the only reason he started producing was because he couldn’t afford to buy beats when he was younger. It was the same story during his college years. He spent a good deal of his sophomore and junior year chopping up samples and stitching them back together. Cole studied producers like 9th Wonder, Just Blaze, and, of course, Kanye West.
The Sideline Story sold 218,000 copies when it made its debut at No. 1 on Billboard's album chart in September, after nearly two years of anticipation
Cole had been dreaming of a rap career since he was 12, when a visiting older cousin taught him to compose rhymes. He asked his mother for a beat machine and taught himself to make tracks.
With his second official mixtape, The Warm Up, and last year’s Friday Night Lights, Cole proved to be a double threat: not only was he capable of mining experiences from his personal life and dissecting them in rhyme, but he set them to self-helmed, soul-infused production.
After Jay plucked him from the unsigned circuit, he quickly got hip to the game, immediately setting to work on what would become his debut. Cole hit the studio with super producer No I.D. for the album’s first session in October 2009, though he says songs for the project were conceived as far back as 2007. His tendency to think ahead has already played into his sophomore album, for which he’s already recorded a “gang of songs” and recently revealed that he intends to release in June 2012.
During his show he pulls out a stool to sit on and holds his hand to his heart, while the crowd raps along. "Lost Ones" is about getting a girl pregnant; "Breakdown" is an absent-father lament. Less profound songs on the album include "Lights Please", "Work Out", "In the Morning" featuring Drake, as well as "Mr Nice Watch", featuring boss Jay-Z.
Although he's got a platinum single, a gold album and a Grammy nomination for best new artist, he wants more.
"I'm grateful for everything that happened, but I'm not satisfied," J. Cole said. "There (are) still accomplishments that keep happening from the work that I put in last year and from the last two, three years ... but those are just reminders of the work that I did. That's in the past. Like, what's the next move? That's my mind state."
Since inking the deal that made him the first artist signed to Jay-Z’s Roc Nation label, Cole hasn’t let up. He dropped two stellar mixtapes, spit one of the best breakout verses ever on the so aptly titled “A Star is Born” from Jay’s Blueprint 3, murdered a raft of rappers on their own songs (Wale’s “Beautiful Bliss,” Reflection Eternal's “Just Begun,” and Kanye’s “Looking for Trouble,” to name a few), toured the world, and now finally has an official album hitting stores.