Jermaine Lamarr Cole was born in Frankfurt, Germany, to an interracial couple serving in the U.S. Army. Cole's black father would later abandon the family, prompting his mother to relocate Jermaine and his brother, Zach, to Fayetteville, North Carolina.
Cole began rapping at 12, and was encouraged to see it as a future career when his mother purchased an ASR-X musical sampler as a Christmas gift three years later.
Upon graduating high school Cole decided that his chances of securing a record contract would be heightened in New York City. He moved to the Big Apple, where he attended St. John's University on an academic scholarship. Cole majored in communications and business, later graduating magna cum laude in 2007, with a 3.8 GPA.
On the first verse of the 2014 Forest Hills Drive
," Cole apologises to his mom for leaving her to deal with foreclosure at his Fayetville childhood home, while he was away chasing girls and partying at St. John's University. Eventually, in June 2014 Cole purchased the house back and renovated it to look exactly how it did when he lived there.
After graduating, Cole worked various part-time jobs, including a $8-an-hour working ad salesman for a newspaper, while hoping to jump start his rap career. On one occasion, he camped outside of the Roc the Mic studios in Manhattan, where Jay-Z was recording American Gangster. The young would-be rapper wished to hand his idol a demo CD, but Hova refused to accept it. "We were standing in the rain for hours, drinking a bottle of E&J for courage," he recalled to Billboard magazine. "Finally a [Rolls-Royce] Phantom rolled up, and sure enough, Jay got out. But he was real short with me: 'I don't want that.' I was crushed, like, 'Did that really just happen? F--k him.'"
Things turned around when Cole became the first artist signed to Jay-Z's Roc Nation's label wing in early 2009. It was the North Carolina rapper's The Warm Up
mixtape track "Lights Please
," which scored him his Roc Nation deal, after Jay-Z heard a pre-release version of the song.
Seconds after Cole heard via text message that he'd been signed to Roc Nation, the ecstatic rapper was bought back to earth when his car was pulled over by a cop and he was arrested.
Cole made his commercial debut in 2009 with a guest verse on Jay-Z's aptly titled track "A Star is Born
Cole first met his event planner wife Melissa Heholt in the mid-2000s while attending St. John's University. It is not known when the famously private couple got married.
J. Cole made history on the Hot 100 dated May 5, 2018 when he became the first act ever to debut three songs simultaneously in the top 10 of the tally. "ATM
" arrived at #6, "Kevin's Heart
" at #8 and "KOD
" at #10.
J. Cole was a standout basketball player at Terry Sanford High School in North Carolina and briefly played for New York's St. John's University.
Cole signed a short-term contract with the Rwandan African league team Patriots Basketball Club, and played his first game against Nigeria's Rivers Hoppers on May 16, 2021.
The rapper scored his first basket
as a professional player only minutes after checking into the game. Cole continued to hold his own on the court, finishing with three points, three rebounds and two assists in just under 18 minutes of action.