He’s standing in the middle of a zip tight studio. Tall. Yellow skin brushed with the heat of a tan. Black Nike shirt up top. Dark sea denim below. He spits a swift line. Everyone stares. The young man is handsome and then some. But his name’s not Aubrey Graham.
Jermaine Cole is “that other light-skinned” rapper. One with tracks tough enough to budge a building. Retrospective. Relatable. Right. And though you may not have heard of him, the North Carolina native prefers that. Besides he already got Jay-Z to lend an ear. And when most unsigned artists were busy carting bulks of mixtapes to Nah Right, J. Cole became a Roc Nation signee after just one. Now with his second mixtape, The Warm Up, Cole’s finally hugging more than just a handful of iPods. So grab an umbrella Honeys, this quiet storm is about to thunder.
Honey Magazine: You were grinding for a minute, but a couple years back your name was the Therapist. Why the switch?
Here’s the story. Back when I was like 13, we used to call three-way. It’d be like six niggas on the phone looking for rap names…
Hitting up that thesaurus pretty hard?
Not even, niggas was straight flipping through a dictionary! Like “Can I be the fucking chiropractor,” (laughs). Nothing was sticking and I looked towards my mentors for help and one of them, suggested Therapist. I actually loved the name, but as I got older, it started to be corny to me. It felt like a wrestler.
Ha! On some alter-ego shit?
Exactly. The name J. Cole, is still a rap character in it’s own, but it’s closer to myself than the Therapist could ever be. I decided about 3, 4 years ago to make that switch.
Seems like a good choice. You worked on The Warm Up for about the time some might take on their albums. Is that amount of effort comparable to starting an album?
It’s like the difference between practice and a game. And I felt like I practiced hard as fuck. So now when I’m in the game, its a couple notches more serious and harder, but I’m more prepared because I didn’t practice like a slouch. I’m just early in the album stages so I don’t know entirely what it’s going to bring, but I know I’m ready.
It’s funny that you compare it to sports, because a lot of rappers put their “practices” on the web. But you started off taking a bit more of the traditional route. If you could, would you have gone back and tried pushing harder on the blogs?
Nah, I think the way I did it was perfect. I’m not going to say that’s the way I had planned, but that’s the way I believed in. I saw it as you’re supposed to put your best foot forth at all times. So I stuck to my guns. I put out one mixtape before I got my deal. My second mixtape came after. You see what I’m saying? I got my deal based strictly off the music.
How do you think that benefits you?
I’m like a mystery. If I was one of these rappers heavy on the blogs, but without a deal and had gotten signed with Jay-Z, it wouldn’t have caused the same effect. People would’ve just been like “Oh, that’s what’s up. He’s been grinding for a minute. Rather than, “Who’s that?”