Last Updated on February 4, 2024
Cole – one of the most polarizing artists in hip hop – is proof that the American dream is alive and well. The road to success wasn’t an easy one. He had to overcome some hardships growing up.
But his circumstance never deterred him from working hard and pursuing his passion for music. Now, he is doing what he has worked his entire life for—making music.
Jermaine Lamarr Cole was born on the 28th of January, 1985 in a US Army base in Frankfurt, Germany, where his father was then stationed. He was only a baby when his father abandoned them.
Life wasn’t always easy for J. Cole, especially for his mother who had two young boys to raise. Later on, she decided to move the entire family to Fayetteville, North Carolina. There, they lived in one trailer park after another while she struggled to provide for them.
The family also stayed at 2014 Forest Hills Drive for a while, which is also the title of his most personal album yet.
In Fayetteville, he discovered his passion for music. He participated in the Terry Sanford Orchestra as a violinist. Then, he taught himself how to rap and produce his own songs.
Cole’s mother had an important role in nurturing his passion for music. Knowing that he had the capacity to make amazing songs, his mother got him an 808 beat machine, so he can produce his own tracks. From then on, he immersed himself in music and made his first song when he was only 15 years old.
Through hard work and perseverance, he honed his skills. He was a go-getter right from the start. He did a number of part-time jobs, including a few odd ones, such as this gig at an ice rink where he had to put on a kangaroo costume.
Life was quite good until his stepfather started becoming abusive towards his older brother, Zach. His mother’s marriage started to crumble. They also lost their house around the same time J. Cole headed off to college.
Despite all his troubles, J. Cole moved to New York City and went to St. John’s University. He figured he would have a better chance of landing a record deal if he stays in New York. He graduated magna cum laude with a major in communication and a minor in business.
Rise to Fame
In 2007, J. Cole launched his debut mixtape – The Come Up. Most of it was self-produced, while some of the tracks were his versions of Kanye West, Just Blaze, and Large Professor songs. Although he gained quite a lot of praise for his record, it didn’t lead to a music deal.
Two years later, he produced his second mixtape – The Warm Up – which had a song called Lights Please. It caught the attention of music exec Mark Pitts, who then played the track to Jay-Z.
Cole had intended to give the Roc Nation founder a copy of his mixtape himself. However, he wasn’t successful. After waiting for three hours outside of a studio, Jay-Z turned him down.
But this amazing twist of fate changed his life forever. Soon after, J. Cole landed a record deal with Roc Nation, and he started appearing on tracks by Jay Z, Wale, and Talib Kweli.
Friday Night Lights was his third record. It was composed of songs that didn’t make it to his first studio album, Cole World: The Sideline Story. Launched in 2011, his major-label debut went platinum, earning the rising star praise from critics far and wide.
One of the most charitable figures in hip hop, J. Cole created a non-profit organization called The Dreamville Foundation, which empowers the urban youth. They provide a myriad of opportunities to the youth of Fayetteville, giving them a better chance of succeeding in life.
They have a reading club, as well as essay contests. When Hurricane Florence hit the Carolinas, the foundation also raised money to help the victims.
Cole also purchased his childhood home, Forest Hills Drive in Fayetteville, where he wrote some of his first songs and learned how to produce his own music. He turned it into a rent-free housing to help out single mothers who are struggling to make ends meet.
Now, J. Cole runs his own record label called Dreamville Records with his former classmate Ibrahim Hamad. By mastering his craft, he has been able to build an empire in the music industry. He has been nominated for a Grammy. He has also met Barack Obama when he was President, who revealed that he loved the rapper.
Here are 98 of the best quotes and lyrics from J. Cole:
J. Cole Quotes
“My fans love me for me, my beats, my rhymes.” – J. Cole
“My life is too crazy, no actor could play me.” – J. Cole
“People congratulate me. I just tell them God is good.” – J. Cole
“I still wanna rap better than everybody else, and I wanna say important things.” – J. Cole
“I sit in silence and find whenever I meditate.” – J. Cole
“Hard to move on when you always regret one.” – J. Cole
“The same ones you love will bring you pain.” – J. Cole
“Nothing lasts forever, but at least we’ve got these memories.” – J. Cole
“We got dreams and we got the right to chase ’em.” – J. Cole
“It’s beauty in the struggle, ugliness in the success.” – J. Cole
“I’mma be here for a while. None of these clowns can hurt me.” – J. Cole
“Anything I do, I do it well.” – J. Cole
“To appreciate the sun, you gotta know what rain is.” – J. Cole
“Anything’s possible, you gotta dream like you never seen obstacles.” – J. Cole
“If you ain’t aim too high, then you aim too low!” – J. Cole
“I’ve always been an underdog. I feel like I beat the odds.” – J. Cole
“No such thing as life that’s better than yours.” – J. Cole
“Take a chance, because you never know how perfect something can turn out.” – J. Cole
“They say time is money but really, it’s not. If we ever go broke, time is all we got.” – J. Cole
“Time will tell who is on my side.” – J. Cole
“If you place your importance on appreciation and love, that’s enough.” – J. Cole
“Either you play the game or let the game play you and be that broke sucka talkin bout I stayed true.” – J. Cole
“Tupac was just so passionate about what he believes in and not afraid to say anything.” – J. Cole
“Life is a movie, pick your own role, Climb your own ladder or you dig your own hole.” – J. Cole
“As we grow up, we realize it becomes less important to have a ton of friends & more important to have real ones.” – J. Cole
“I had a lot of resistance, and not just to fame. I was always conscious of not changing.” – J. Cole
“You can’t reverse fame. You can lose all the money, but you’ll never lose people knowing you.” – J. Cole
“A little jealousy in a relationship is healthy. It’s always nice to know someone is afraid to lose you.” – J. Cole
“I’m a super-duper over-analyzer. You mix that with self-doubt and pressure, and that’s never healthy.” – J. Cole
“My life accelerated, but had to wait my turn. But then I redecorated, that means my tables turn.” – J. Cole
“If they don’t know your dreams, they can’t shoot them down.” – J. Cole
“Anything I do, I want to do it well.” – J. Cole
“And the strongest drug of them all – Love.” – J. Cole
“Don’t let bridges you cross be bridges you burn.” – J. Cole
“Life is all about the evolution.” – J. Cole
“Sometimes our dreams come true, sometimes our fears do too.” – J. Cole
“So here we are… it’s funny how so close can seem so far.” – J. Cole
“Feels so right to let things go.” – J. Cole
“I seen a baby cry seconds later he laughs… the beauty of life, the pain never lasts.” – J. Cole
“Every loser gotta win and every winner gotta lose someday.” – J. Cole
“Catch me, I’ve fallen in love for the first time.” – J. Cole
“I feel like this: Whatever is in your path and in your heart, you need to do.” – J. Cole
“Follow your heart. Don’t follow what you’ve been told you’re supposed to do.” – J. Cole
“Don’t let them taint your soul.” – J. Cole
“I’d rather be happy being myself than sad trying to please everyone else.” – J. Cole
“But see I’m growing and getting stronger with every breath.” – J. Cole
“One thing you should know about me is I never play to lose. Always aim high and rarely obey the rules.” – J. Cole
“I know I’m blessed because yo’ stress is realer than anything I done been through.” – J. Cole
“You keep falling victim ‘cause you’re insecure, and when I tell you you’re beautiful you can’t be sure.” – J. Cole
“I keep my head high, I got my wings to carry me. I don’t know freedom, I want my dreams to rescue me.” – J. Cole
“Never give up until you’ve given out all your very best. It’s better to fail trying, than wondering what could have happened if you tried.” – J. Cole
“For a few minutes you made me feel as if I actually meant something to someone.” – J. Cole
“I put a lot of pressure on myself. I think something’s not good enough, and I won’t stop until I feel like I’ve made it. I’m never satisfied.” – J. Cole
“I walk along this long harbor of life and sit on the piers, reflect on my pain and sh*t on my fears.” – J. Cole
“You are perfect exactly as you are. With all your flaws and problems, there’s no need to change anything. All you need to change is the thought that you aren’t good enough.” – J. Cole
“I don’t live for the accolades. I’m more so about the music. Making it, and putting it out. Those are the two best feelings.” – J. Cole
“Keep grindin’ boy, your life can change in one year, And even when it’s dark out, the sun is shining somewhere.” – J. Cole
“I’m here to spread a message of hope. Follow your heart. Don’t follow what you’ve been told you’re supposed to do.” – J. Cole
“I’ve got two Rolexes that I’m very proud of – a gold Presidential that was a gift and a white gold one I gifted myself. I’m trying to step my game up and get a few more of those.” – J. Cole
“If I was to go to sleep before midnight, I would feel weird about myself, like I wasted a day. My most productive hours are between midnight and five.” – J. Cole
“You have to hurt in order to know. Fall in order to grow. Lose in order to gain. Because most of life’s lessons are learned in pain.” – J. Cole
“In this life ain’t no happy endings. Only pure beginnings followed by years of sinning and fake repentance.” – J. Cole
“In a game full of liars it turns out that I’m the truth. Some say that rap’s alive. It turns out that I’m the proof.” – J. Cole
“Life can bring much pain. There are many ways to deal with this pain. Choose wisely.” – J. Cole
“I’m half-black, half-white, so I basically put it like this: I can fit in anywhere. That’s why I write so many stories from so many different perspectives, because I’ve seen so many.” – J. Cole
“Am I about dollars or about change? Am I about knowledge or brains? Freedom or big chains? They don’t feel my pain.” – J. Cole
“I pay attention to lyrics and I know what rap fans care about. I try to write for the average listener and I’m conscious of the mainstream without selling out.” – J. Cole
“I have a little bit of that gamer spirit in me. I just don’t have the time to be a gamer. But in another life, I would be one.” – J. Cole
“Producing all my own songs and refusing to go to the hot producer. That’s the biggest risk I’ve taken so far.” – J. Cole
“College isn’t in everyone’s hearts. I am living proof, though, that school doesn’t mess up your plans. It gives you more experiences to write about.” – J. Cole
“The thing about being an artist today is you get to develop right in front of people’s eyes before you even put out an album.” – J. Cole
“I worked in ad sales. I would call up local businesses and try to get them to buy ads in the paper. The whole time, I felt like I was just scamming people.” – J. Cole
“My parents were divorced by the time I was even conscious – like, I don’t remember them ever being together.” – J. Cole
“It’s no coincidence that all the greatest rappers – whoever you put in your top five – I guarantee you they are great storytellers.” – J. Cole
“One day, I’ll be listening to a bunch of Ray Charles, the next day it’s nothing but Red Hot Chili Peppers. The next day it might be Tupac all day.” – J. Cole
“When I was in college my girl got me a job at the doctor’s office she was working at. I was a file clerk. No disrespect but I don’t think a man can do that job. It takes so much meticulous and precise file-keeping.” – J. Cole
“When you’re a rapper, just a rapper, you have to kind of settle for whatever comes your way – if a beat is hot, you wanna rap on it, period.” – J. Cole
“I don’t like to think of it as being fired. Instead, I prefer to think of it as being on indefinite leave with a sabbatical flair.” – J. Cole
“There’s a story behind every person, a reason why they are the way they are. So, think about that before you judge someone.” – J. Cole
“The music becomes more pure and soulful when it’s true, and it has to be true these days with the way the internet works, and the way the game works, everyone wants authentic raps.” – J. Cole
“I met Will Smith twice. I didn’t talk to him for too long but I was trying to let him know that my age group grew up watching him – he was the coolest guy on television and the coolest guy in movies.” – J. Cole
“I struggled with being a broke college graduate, and while all my friends were getting career jobs, I was working horrible part-time jobs. That’s why now, even when I get tired, I think, ‘This is what I asked for.” – J. Cole
“I feel like I’m a New Yorker because I really know the city. I actually tell the drivers where to go – I have this bad habit, I always question the drivers. I do that all the time because I feel like I know the best way, when really it’s like, ‘Yo, man, shut up. This dude does this every day of his life.” – J. Cole
“I’m not a conscious rapper, all those things we talk about, the struggle, the pain, the outlook to the future, keep your head up. I try to put all those positive things into a regular human character, which is myself.” – J. Cole
“I just feel like, with rappers, there’s so much complacency. It’s like, ‘Oh, I’m a rapper. I’m successful. I make money. That’s all that matters.’ But there’s a lot of stuff going on in the world. Whether or not you’re aware of it, it’s happening.” – J. Cole
“I’m not gonna be bad at anything, and I want to actually be the best at anything I’m doing. So if I’m playing basketball, if I’m taking the SATs, like, there’s a competitive spirit behind it. With production, it’s the same thing.” – J. Cole
“People think because I’ve got some success, I’ve made it, but in my eyes, it’s like, ‘How long has Jay Z been in the business? How many albums has he got?’ Not that I’m trying to be Jay Z, but I am trying to be around for a long time.” – J. Cole
“I want people to follow their dreams, yes… but I’m not interested in telling young black kids how to be rappers… I want to show them that there are so many other paths you can take, besides a rapper or basketball player.” – J. Cole
“I was just a goofy little funny kid, who was always getting sent to the principal. It wasn’t serious because I was smart. I wasn’t like a true troublemaker, just rambunctious – like, talkative and trying to be funny. That was me in middle-school.” – J. Cole
“I always feel like it’s two key ingredients when it comes to following your dreams, making something happen that the average person deems difficult. If you truly believe it, that’s step one. Step two, is, you know, the hard work that goes along with it.” – J. Cole
“College had a great deal to do with my development as a person. I don’t know if I’d be the artist I was if it wasn’t for goin’ to school like that. School is a good place – it ain’t for everybody, but I think it’s for most people.” – J. Cole
“There was the time I bought three cars in the span of three or four weeks. It was crazy; it wasn’t greedy. It was mine, my girl’s, my mom’s. I got Benzes for my ladies. But I felt crazy. You have to understand I come from a world where we’re very modest. But that’s not greedy. That’s nice, right?” – J. Cole
“I actually started off majoring in computer science, but I knew right away I wasn’t going to stay with it. It was because I had this one professor who was the loneliest, saddest man I’ve ever known. He was a programmer, and I knew that I didn’t want to do whatever he did.” – J. Cole
“As much as it might look like, to someone else, that I’m successful, I never feel like I’m anywhere. The further I go, I still feel equally further from my eventual goal. Because as I grow, I get more goals. I’m never content.” – J. Cole
“I’m the same kid who used to hop the trains with headphones and just go to downtown Manhattan, walk around and listen to music or walk through the city. The fame restricts that. It’s a small complaint in comparison to the benefits I get from it, but the restrictive part is what I don’t like – and the fact that it’s not reversible.” – J. Cole
“There’s still value in a CD, even if it’s just nostalgic. People are still willing to pay. But it can’t compare to a digital-only release where you can control the exact time that it’ll come out, you know what I mean? So whoever finds how to bridge that gap is gonna make a lot of money.” – J. Cole
“There’s always people out there that’s like, doubting me, you know what I mean? Even though I do embrace the people that embrace me and I’m grateful for them. But I always feel like, man, there’s still people out there that’s not giving it up. And I feel like I’m doing everything the right way, you know what I mean? I’m really going out of my way to do it the right way. I’m taking very few cheats – very few cheat codes that I’m using.” – J. Cole