An educated rapper with a different story
He doesn’t have the gold chain, tattoos and the roughed up look that is synonymous with rappers. As he walks into the room he cuts a figure of a well-groomed gentleman and has the ladies gawking at his looks.
Jermaine Lamar Cole (J Cole), who is signed to Jay-Z’s label Roc Nation, is one of the few rappers who doesn’t have a criminal record or a hard upbringing that often leads to criminal activity. This hip hop artist majored in communication and minored in business, graduating magna cum laude
Asked whether he thought his lack of street cred was a disadvantage, he said the industry has evolved to a place where the story is not only about the thug life and the violence. He believes that he tells a different story and his education gives him a different place to write from.
Cole flew into the country on Sunday morning for the launch of the Big Brother Africa Stargame reality show, his first visit to the continent.
So did he have any preconceptions about South Africa? “No,” he says. “I didn’t have a stereotypical image of the country, so I wasn’t surprised to see a big city like Johannesburg.”
The rapper even quips that he was impressed by the billboards which had black people on them. “That’s a rare thing where I come from,” he said.
Born in Germany and raised in North Carolina, US, he was given a recording deal by rap mogul Jay-Z, after hounding him and camping outside his offices. “I have a lot of stories about stalking Jay-Z,” the rapper jokes. His persistence was finally rewarded and he has not looked back since being signed as the first rap artist to Roc Nation.
Cole’s first album, Cole World: The Sideline Story, debuted at number one on the US Billboard 200, Top R&B Albums and Top Rap Albums charts, selling more than 217000 copies in its first week on the market. It also earned him a nomination for best new artist at the 54th Grammy Awards.
However, the rapper’s performance at the Big Brother launch was met with mixed reactions, with some blaming the poor sound quality and some saying the lack of enthusiasm from the audience was what affected his act.
J Cole expressed an interest in coming back to South Africa for a longer stay and bigger concert. Hopefully, a venue full of fans will help him deliver the explosive performances he’s known for.