‘I Don’t Never Ever Want to be Broke Again’: How J. Cole’s $60 Million Empire Grew from Music and Hard Work

At 35 years old, North Carolina rapper J. Cole has amassed an estimated net worth of $60 million. Cole, who has performed or made songs with the likes of Janet Jackson, Missy Elliott, Wale, TLC and more, says what keeps him grinding is his fear of being broke again.

J.Cole, Photo via Instagram

As the first artist to sign to Jay-Z’s Roc Nation label, it would seem like the emcee, whose real name is Jermaine Cole, would love the spotlight. Not entirely. Instead, the low-key musician prefers to keep his head down and build generational wealth and opportunities for his family and those people around him.

J. Cole, a product of a single mother’s determination, changed his circumstances by staying focused, excelling in academics and working diligently. Memories of his U.S. Army veteran father’s departure and his mother’s relentless efforts to provide for the family serve as constant reminders of his journey.

Hard-Knock Life

“There were days when my mom would have to scrape up nickels and dimes to give me $1.50 lunch money,” Cole said. “And I would know she wasn’t eating lunch that day so that I could. I wasn’t fooled, I wasn’t like, ‘We’re rich!’ I was very aware that we were barely here.”

As a result, he worked hard in school, knowing it could be a gateway to better his circumstances. He graduated high school with a 4.2 GPA, and then earned a scholarship to St. John’s University.

After graduating from St. John’s University magna cum laude (3.8 GPA), he invested his energy into becoming a full-time artist. He produced his first mixtape, which scored him a meeting with Jay-Z within two years of his graduation. By 2009, he signed and released another project.

To date, he has delivered to the world 13 albums, one live album, one compilation album and three mixtapes, many of the projects released via his own Dreamville label — an entity he formed before signing to Roc Nation. This was co-founded with his college friend Ibrahim Hamad.

As a label, Dreamville is a prosperous venture for J. Cole with him signing artists and producers like Omen, Bas, Ari Lennox, JID, and more.

Music Deal Changes Things

The record company has spawned larger opportunities for J. Cole and his business partners, such as the Dreamville Festival.

According to Boardroom, Dreamville Fest’s attendance in 2019 was 40,000, which surged to 80,000 in 2022.

Organizers aimed to surpass 100,000 attendees over the two-day event, adding 10,000 a day in 2023.

Projected revenue growth was remarkable: 2019 brought $3.8 million to Raleigh, while 2022 nearly doubled to $6.7 million. This year, they expected an 18 percent increase, reaching $7.9 million, thanks to the higher turnout. Dreamville Fest’s popularity promises to keep soaring, benefiting both the City of Oaks and festival organizers.

Loren Gold, Visit Raleigh’s executive vice president of administration and operations said the festival impacted the city’s bottom line.

She said, “80% of the ticket holders are tied to out-of-market, those are directly tied to visitor spending. Visitor spending is hotel revenue, restaurant revenue, retail revenue, and transportation revenue.” Her agency welcomes J. Cole’s vision because of its economic impact on Raleigh.

Apart from Dreamville, he holds a minor Tidal share, has a long-standing PUMA partnership and achieved a milestone by becoming the first American rapper to sign with the Scarborough Shooting Stars in the Canadian Elite Basketball League, following his 2021 contract with the Patriots Basketball Club in the Basketball Africa League.

Recently, J. Cole sat down with Kevin Hart on his show “Hart to Heart.”

When the subject of money came up, and he was pressed for business advice, he said he might not be the best one for that because of his fear of going broke.

“I can’t really sit here like some mogul would give business advice because I don’t think I run like the best business,” the “No Role Modelz” artist said. He added, “I’m grateful to have great people around me where it’s like my money good. I’m smart with my money … that just comes from fear.  I don’t never ever want to be broke again.”

Hart then asked, “Frugal or just mindful: which one [are you]?”

“I would definitely say mindful.  If it’s the right thing … if it’s a vacation … family vacation I’m gonna spend. I’m not afraid to spend but I’m mindful where.”

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