Behind The Music: J. Cole


With a song or even just a verse, there is a message or story behind what the artist is singing or rapping about. J. Cole is one of the biggest names in the rap industry but his story to the top is like no other.

J. Cole began writing and rapping at a young age. By the age of 17, Cole had notebooks filled with lyrics, verses, rhymes and was posting self recorded videos on various social media sites under the name, Therapist. Shortly after, he released his first mixtape, “The Come Up.”  There was positive feedback but not exactly the feedback he wanted. He wanted to catch the ear of the right person– and that would be Jay Z.


He even stood outside of Jay Z’s studio and performed his songs hoping to catch a liking from his idol.  As time marched on, there was no word from Jay Z but that did not stop J. Cole from doing what he loves, music. In 2009, Cole released his second mixtape, “The Warm Up” which caught the attention of Jay Z.

J. Cole was in a car when he received the call from Jay Z saying he would be signing him to Roc Nation Records the next day. Moments later, Cole hears a police siren and subsequently he’s arrested. In the song, “Rise and Shine” off of his debut album, he talks about this arrest. He never told his mom he got arrested because they were struggling financially and she had enough to worry about. He knew come the next day, everything would change for them. In the ‘Interlude’ off the album, J. Cole tells the story of why he was arrested and the thoughts going through his head. He says, “That was the easiest night in jail someone could ever do.”

J. Cole conveys messages and tells a story through his lyrics.  He wrote a verse about the unrest in Ferguson  and social unrest in America and performed it on the David Letterman Show.

J. Cole performs “Be Free” on The David Letterman Show

Click the link to see the full performance.

Get the full story about your favorite hip-hop artist every Wednesday  on “Nels@Night” only on WCRX, Chicago’s Underground from 7 to 9pm.



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