Artist – J. Cole
Years Active – 2007-Present
Notable Album – Cole World: The Inside Story
“I like to write alone, be in my zone
Think back to Forest Hills, no perfect home
But the only thing like home I’ve ever known
Until they snatched it from my mama and foreclosed her on the loan
I’m so sorry that I left you there to deal with that alone”
Born in West Germany, J. Cole and his mother eventually made his way to Fayettesville, North Carolina, where he would spend the rest of his childhood.
Like Biggie, Cole was an exceptional student, eventually graduating and attending college in New York City. His interest in rap coincided with his education, and shortly after he returned home to North Carolina his future was laid out before him.
A mixtape released in 2009 caught the ear of Jay-Z, who included Cole on a track for Blueprint 3 and signed him to Roc Nation.
Since then Cole’s career has been nothing but ascendant. He’s the true modern rapper in a lot of ways. He got his start with Jay-Z, but being from North Carolina he’s also worked with southern rap icons like B.o.B. For good measure, he produced a track for Kendrick Lamar’s 2011 album Section.80 (and is working on a long-delayed joint album with the L.A. native) as well as touring with R&B luminary Rihanna.
More than virtually any other active rapper on this list, Cole’s got his fingers in virtually all of rap’s pies.
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