There have been many students that graduate from St. John’s University that go on to pursue their careers. Whether it’s becoming a radio personality on Z100, a successful accountant for Pricewaterhouse Coopers or an established elementary school teacher-turned-principal, St. John’s alumni have made names for themselves in a number of different industries. As of last year, a man by the name of Jermaine Cole was able to add “signed hip-hop artist to Jay-Z’s record label, RocNation” to that list of success stories.
This week, St. John’s welcomes back 2007 graduate Jermaine Cole, better known as J. Cole, as he performs at this year’s Spring Concert on April 23 with R&B singer Ryan Leslie.
A North Carolina native, Cole is a hip-hop artist and producer who has garnered praise and critical acclaim from many of the industry’s greatest. Inspired by artists such as Tupac, NaS, Eminem and Canibus, Cole became profoundly interested in hip-hop and dreamed of the day he would be on their level of lyricism.
After graduating from Terry Sanford High School in Fayetteville, Cole decided to move to New York in order to pursue his ambition of becoming a successful hip-hop artist. In 2003, he enrolled in St. John’s University on an academic scholarship, majoring in communications with a minor in business.
After refining his sound and graduating Magna Cum Laude in May 2007, Cole dropped his debut mixtape titled The Come Up alongside DJ On Point. The mixtape received positive reviews by many listeners, becoming his first success without a label.
In November 2008, hip-hop mogul Jay-Z heard Cole’s track “Lights Please” and immediately contacted and signed Cole to his newly found label, RocNation.
After becoming RocNation’s first signee, Cole dropped another mixtape titled The Warm Up, which solidified his stance as hip-hop’s star freshman to the mass audience. The tape showcased the newcomer’s talent through vivid wordplay, insightful lyrics and versatility in his tracks about topics beyond the genre clichés of money, clothes and cars.
Cole has established himself as a rapper, gracing the cover of numerous magazines such as the March/April issues of The Source and XXL, where he is placed as one of hip-hop’s freshmen to look out for in 2010. His list of collaborations are more impressive than the entire careers of some artists in the industry, including mentor Jay-Z, Wale, Talib Kweli and Mos Def.
Currently working on his debut album, which is yet to be titled and produced by No I.D., Cole is preparing to make his impact on music.
“Me, I’m like a young Simba,” Cole raps. “I can’t wait to be the king.”