Since taking his place in the music industry, rapper and producer J. Cole has become more than a household name.
J. Cole removed everything from his Instagram on Dec. 3, which might indicate the artist is gearing up to drop a new album. He has been dropping hits for more than a decade now.
His debut mixtape, “The Come Up,” was released over 15 years ago and did exceptionally well in college scenes and on streaming sites. He’s received cosigns from industry giants such as Kanye West and his protege, Jay-Z, who gifted him his original Roc-A-Fella chain in 2014. Since then, both his music and career aspirations have taken off to new heights.
The artist, born Jermaine Lamarr Cole, periodically has opened up about his rags-to-riches story in the media. He was born in Frankfurt, West Germany, and raised in Fayetteville, North Carolina. His story speaks of humility and sacrifice — two keys that led to signing with Roc Nation and earning an impressive net worth of $60 million.
The Grammy Award-winning artist always has pursued two passions at once throughout his life. After graduating from Terry Sanford High School, he accepted an academic scholarship to St. John’s University in New York City. In 2007, Cole graduated magna cum laude with a degree in business and communications. That same year, he released “The Come Up,” which gained massive commercial and street success. He followed the momentum with two additional mixtapes and six number-one albums on the Billboard 200.
Cole received his first Grammy win for assisting 21 Savage on his 2020 track “A Lot,” which won Best Rap Song. His latest album, “The Off-Season,” received a Grammy nomination for Best Rap Album and surpassed one billion streams on Spotify earlier this year.
Signing with Roc Nation
In a personal essay for “The Players’ Tribune,” Cole discussed signing with Jay-Z’s Roc Nation imprint on Feb. 24, 2009. The “No Role Models” emcee admitted that he “never actually read” the contract he was given and described it as a “surreal feeling” to be signed by an artist he idolized.
“The man was a mythical figure to me that I had only met one time a few months prior,” he wrote. “Friends would congratulate me and follow it up with a “N——!!! How you feeling?!!” I imagine that the thought of one of their homies getting a deal with somebody we all idolized had to be mind-blowing. But the truth was that the enormous level of excitement I felt was somehow subdued by the amount of focus I knew I had to have for my ultimate mission.”
Cole also ended up on the music mogul’s Grammy-nominated album, “The Blueprint 3,” on the track titled “A Star Is Born.” From there, the rest is history.
High-Grossing Tours and Drake’s “Club Paradise”
Cole served as the opening act on Drake’s successful “Club Paradise” tour. Capital Xtra reports that the sold-out tour grossed approximately $43.3 million, becoming the highest-grossing hip-hop tour of 2012.
The “2014 Forest Hills Drive” tour earned $20.4 million in 2015, while Cole’s fourth platinum album, “4 Your Eyez Only,” brought in $35.6 million from touring in 2017.
Cole reportedly sold “The Come Up” mixtapes on college campuses for $1. It featured songs like “Dollar & A Dream,” which inspired the “Dollar & A Dream Tour,” he allegedly made millions from, according to Trapital.
However, in an interview with Noisey by Vice, the North Carolina native revealed that each show took six figures to create. He noted the hardships of putting it together in an interview with Noisey by Vice.
“No one is making money. We’re outta pocket,” he explained. “It costs six figures to do all of these shows. I’m spending money. I’m not making any money. I’m doing this for the love and for the connection with the fans.”
The emcee continued, “This small venue — you can’t duplicate this connection in an arena or an amphitheater. I’m doing this for the love of the music. This shit reminds me of back when I was writing the music. This is just as much for me as it is for them.”
The idea went off without a hitch, and by 2013 former CEO and co-founder of Roc Nation, Jay Brown, suggested he host a concert series where fans paid $1 for entry. The Dollar & A Dream Tour held over 30 shows at small venues between June 2013 and 2015.
Dreamville Records and Music Festival
Some view Cole as an artist for the artists. He established the Dreamville Foundation in 2011, which supports urban youth with resources, programs and events and works to encourage others to become successful in their respective ways. His Dreamville Records Label, under Interscope Records, introduces the industry and world to a unique group of artists.
The label’s roster includes Cole, R&B singer Ari Lennox and fellow rappers and producers such as Cozz, Bas, J.I.D, Lute, Omen, EarthGang and more. “We are the label of the connected age,” reads a statement on Dreamville’s website. “The creators of stories. Keeping a pulse on our community while exploring new sounds, new visuals, and new ways to authentically and genuinely connect with all people around the world.”
Their compilation album, “Revenge of the Dreamers III,” was certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America in 2020. It received a Grammy nomination for Best Rap Album.
And following years of postponements, Cole held his first annual Dreamville Festival in Raleigh, North Carolina, in 2019. The highly curated showcase draws a crowd of at least 35,000 to watch the label’s artists perform on stage. Other previous performers include Teyana Taylor, SZA,, Big Sean and 21 Savage and more, with Cole as the headliner.
According to Live Nation, the 2022 Dreamville Festival brought in 80,000 attendees from all over the U.S., including over a dozen international countries. It reportedly generated more than $6.7 million in economic impact for Raleigh and Wake County community residents. The popular event will make its return to Dorothea Dix Park in Raleigh in April 2023.
Dreamville recently expanded its endeavors beyond music and entertainment with the launch of its latest company. In October 2020, Cole announced Dreamville Ventures, a multi-disciplinary media company he co-founded with his longtime business pattern and friend, Ibrahim “IB” Hamas. The expansion also includes Dreamville Studios, a content space for locals to produce original content.
No Rent, No Problem
Cole’s music famously mentions Mohammed, the New York landlord he owed thousands in back rent. His first honorable mention arrived on the first verse of the braggadocious rapper’s 2013 Grammy-nominated hit, “Power Trip.” The North Carolina artist explained how he went from living at home for free to living in New York, where rent was $1,700.
“Okay, back when I was sleeping in my mama crib / Or even back when I was up there in Mohammed crib / Paying seventeen hundred for the rent, money well spent / No heater, but a n—— made heat, may I vent?” Cole raps.
Mohammed fully supported Cole’s decision to pursue music despite not receiving his monthly rent. According to reports, he was one of the first people to be compensated for their generosity and encouragement after the “Crooked Smile” rapper signed with Roc Nation.
Platinum, No Features
J. Cole’s fans showed out in numbers for his 2015 tour in honor of his “2014 Forest Hills Drive” album. Reports claim the 63-city tour reportedly sold nearly 575,000 tickets and earned $20.4 million worldwide. The tour experience was documented on the live recorded album and the HBO special, “J. Cole Forest Hills Drive: Homecoming.” The album also earned Cole his first Grammy nomination for Best Rap Album.
Meanwhile, the 62-city “4 Your Eyez Only Tour” grossed almost twice as much at $35.6 million worldwide. His fourth studio album, “4 Your Eyez Only,” went platinum within four months of its release in December 2016. He kept the same formula and released another HBO documentary titled, “J. Cole: 4 Your Eyes Only.”
The 2018 release “KOD” was also certified for one million in U.S. sales by the RIAA. It also broke streaming records on Spotify and Apple Music.
His Short-Lived Basketball Career
A week before releasing “The Off-Season” in May 2021, Cole made headlines after quietly exploring other career options. The former St. John’s walk-on played basketball in high school, but never played a Division I game in college.
It wasn’t until 2021 that he truly fulfilled his hoop dreams by signing a contract with the Africa Basketball League. He played three games with the Rwanda Patriots in the 12-team league created by the NBA to bring awareness to the continent’s rising basketball scene.
In May of this year, Cole inked a contract with the Scarborough Shooting Stars of the Canadian Elite Basketball League. He played two away games and two home games before deciding to go on tour the following month.