With his first album Cole World: The Sideline Story, the Fayetteville, North Carolina MC solidified his position as a bonafide rap star touring the world with hit records and then earning himself a nomination at the 54th Grammy Awards. Now with his sophomore LP Born Sinner scheduled for a June 25 release on Roc Nation/Sony the once humble kid stands tall as confident man on a musical mission.
"I didn't know conceptually what it was going to be, I just knew that I had to come right back. I wasn't satisfied with the first album," Cole says of Born Sinner.
Cole's first album hit #1 on the Billboard 200 albums chart when it was released in September 2011, earned him a gold plaque and spawned the platinum-selling, hit-single "Work Out." He promises Born Sinner will top it all. "I think I'm somebody that's finally starting to realize how good I am and starting to realize I can do anything I put my mind to, as cliche as it sounds," he says.
Jermaine Cole got his start rapping and producing as a teen in North Carolina. In 2009 he signed to JAY Z's Roc Nation then dropped his The Warm Up (2009) and Friday Night Lights (2010) mixtapes, which paved the way for his major label debut. He now stands as one of music's most respected and sought after rap lyricists. Not only has Cole crafted underground favorites with Wale ("Beautiful Bliss "), Reflection Eternal ("Just Begun") and French Montana ("Diamonds") he has been called on by music's biggest stars JAY Z ("A Star is Born"), Beyoncé ("Party" remix) and Kanye West ("Looking for Trouble").
Having experienced a healthy amount of success early on, for Born Sinner Cole made a creative return to the routines that initially got him his deal. "I got back to what it used to be, straight making music in the bedroom. No studio," he says.
The shift resulted in "Power Trip," Born Sinner's multi-layered first single featuring Grammy Award-winning R&B vocalist Miguel. Cole released the song on Valentine's Day 2013 and already has cracked the top 10 on Billboard's R&B/Hip-Hop Songs and Rap charts. The song's melodic sample-based instrumental creates the perfect sound bed for Cole's deep lyrical whims which center around the complex feelings that love can create. Its groundbreaking video only enhances the experience, telling a dark tale of obsession and murder.
"This single is so organic. It happened at a time where I needed to get away from the studio," Cole says. "I just start cooking up in the house. I started with the drums, added the sample, added the music, then I added that percussion and bass line and started humming melodies. That was a fun night, probably the most fun I've had in a long time making a song."
Cole's story begins with music, but extends so far outside of the recording studio. In February he was invited to Harvard University to spearhead an hour-long lecture titled "The Next Move: A Conversation with J. Cole," where he spoke with students about his early influences, dreams of playing professional basketball in the NBA and lyrical inspiration. It's that same story that inspired all of the music on Born Sinner, which Cole produced in its entirety. "The things that I've been through is the reason for that, it all makes me stronger," he says. "All that will be told on the album, people will get it."