Happy Birthday, J. Cole! The Grammy award-winning rapper is 37 years old today (Jan. 28). J. Cole has accomplished a great deal since the release of his debut mixtape, The Come Up, in 2007. While there are many details of his life’s work that fans may recognize, we have 10 facts you didn’t know about the North Carolina rapper.
The accomplished artist and producer won his first Grammy award in 2020 for Best Rap Song thanks to his feature on 21 Savage’s “A Lot.” J. Cole has always had a mission to use his influence to support up and coming acts. He has a profound history of being a change agent in music, becoming a founder of Dreamville Records with his manager Ibrahim Hamad in 2007. The label, distributed through Interscope Records, has a hefty roster of talented artists including Bas, Ari Lennox, Earthgang, JID, Cozz, Omen, Lute and Cole himself.
As accomplished as J. Cole is in music, he has done some cool and impressive things outside of the business. This influence is how he landed a spot on the Mt. Rushmore of Rap of the 2010’s.
Here is a list of 10 facts you probably didn’t know about J. Cole:
1. J. Cole Is From Germany
The rapper always reps North Carolina, but he was actually born in Frankfurt, Germany. His dad was based there in the US Army. Cole’s mother is actually German and the family later relocated to his true hometown of Fayetteville, North Carolina when he was eight months old.
2. His OG Rap Names Were Interesting
He had originally gone by the rap names Blaza and Therapist. When J. Cole met rapper Bomm Sheltuh, he was using the name Blaza and then he switched to Therapist after consulting the dictionary. He switched to the name J. Cole before releasing his debut mixtape.
3. Cole Started Rapping & Producing Very Young
The rapper began rapping at the tender age of 12 years old and producing his own music at 15 with his mom’s help. He started laying down his own beats after his mother spent $1,300 on an ASR-x, which the aspiring rapper used to put together music in his bedroom.
4. He Was First-Chair in the Orchestra
In 2009, J. Cole was first-chair violinist in the Terry Sandford Orchestra when he was at school. Some orchestral highlights for Cole was performing the theme songs from Mission Impossible and Batman.
5. J. Cole’s A Fan First
Cole was front row at Dave Chappelle’s Block Party in Brooklyn. The aspiring rapper won tickets to the event and can be seen making a cameo in the accompanying film to see the likes of Kanye and Common.
6. Before Rap, Cole Had A Few [Awful] Gigs
Before his career popped off, J. Cole briefly held jobs as an ad salesman at a newspaper and a bill collector. He has admitted that he struggled with both roles. He also worked at a skating rink as a teenager, where he dressed as a kangaroo to entertain their customers. Humble beginnings for sure.
7. A Man of His Word
Early on when he was trying to breakthrough as a rapper in New York City, J. Cole sometimes had trouble paying his rent. Fortunately, his landlord, Muhammad, let him stay despite missing payments. Upon signing to Roc Nation, years later, Cole paid Muhammad back in full.
8. Rap & Basketball
J. Cole has a passion for the rap game and the game of basketball. He’s mentioned that his first job in New York City was as a basketball coach for kids in Queens. The MC also wrote an essay about his basketball aspirations for athlete publication Players’ Tribune. In it, he indicated that he still wanted to play in the NBA. The next month, the Detroit Pistons offered him a tryout.
He went on to complete his contractual obligation to the Basketball Africa League on the Rwanda Patriots BBC last year.
9. J. Cole or Master P?
When he first started rapping, Cole didn’t sound anything like he does now. According to him, his first raps sounded like bars from Master P. Also, he got inspiration from Cash Money Records’ artists as well.
10. His Favorite Tupac Album
J. Cole is pretty open about all of his rap inspirations. He has said that Tupac Shakur’s 1996 LP The Don Killuminati: The Seven Day Theory is his favorite Tupac album.