The Untold Truth Of J. Cole

J. Cole has mastered the art of being a top-selling artist with a global fanbase, while still remaining mysterious to the world. Instead of doing countless interviews exposing his private life, Cole keeps it strictly in his music where he feels most comfortable being vulnerable. The 37-year-old has remained mostly controversy-free throughout his career, and minimal details are known about his personal life. Despite living mostly under the radar, over the years Cole has earned a loyal fanbase that sings his praises to anyone who listens. 

In a genre famous for braggadocious lyrics and over-the-top images, Cole has separated himself from the pack by remaining humble and true to himself. For an emcee whose music pulls from his real life, there's still a lot that remains unknown about J. Cole. He's more than just a chart topper and the guy who went "platinum with no features." Join us as we step into "Cole World" –- there's a lot of untold truth to share.

J. Cole was born in Germany

Though he's one of the few successful rappers to represent North Carolina, Jermaine Cole was actually born in Frankfurt, Germany, where his G.I. dad was stationed. Cole was born on an Army base. Eight months later, Cole's family moved to Fayetteville, North Carolina, where he would grow up. His parents eventually divorced, and Cole lived predominantly with his mom (who was originally from Germany), brother, and stepfather after she remarried. 

"I started off on a military base, and I remember moving — I guess this was after my parents got divorced — from there to a trailer park. It was one of the scariest places I've been to, because I was always worried about my mother," he told NPR. It wasn't until he was in the fifth grade that Cole's family moved into the suburbs. As a young biracial kid, seeing both sides of the track left an impression on him. "That's why I write so many stories from so many different perspectives, because I've seen so many," he explained.

The rapper repurchased his childhood home

On one of his most honest tracks "Apparently," J. Cole emotionally apologizes to his mother for not always being there for her. The track appears on his "2014 Forrest Hills Drive" album, the name of which refers to the address of the home he moved into as a child. On the track, Cole recounts his mother later losing the home due to foreclosure while he was away at college in New York City. "I'm so sorry that I left you there to deal with that alone" he raps. He calls himself selfish and vows to treat his mother better in the future. After the album's release, he purchased the home back and planned to turn it into a safe haven for other single mothers

"My goal is to have that be a haven for a family," Cole explained on The Combat Jack Show in 2015. "So every two years, a new family will come in and live rent-free. The idea is that it's a single mother with multiple kids ... I want her kids to feel how I felt when we got the house." 

In 2018, the home was vandalized with graffiti by someone seemingly upset with Cole. "J. Cole ... do you even care about the ville?" was spray-painted on the side of the famous home, accusing the star of not truly caring about the city he came from. The graffiti was quickly removed, and Cole never commented on it.

His mother struggled with addiction

J. Cole's 2018 album "KOD" took aim at the glorification of drugs in today's society. Addiction is a personal issue for him and has always been something he rapped about in his music. In his songs, Cole raps candidly about witnessing his mother struggle with addiction. "I gotta leave this house 'cause part of me dies when I see her like this, too young to deal with pain, I'd rather run the streets than see her kill herself," he raps on "Once an Addict." 

The vulnerability in his lyrics made other songs like "Breakdown" a favorite track for fans struggling with the same thing. Initially, his mother — who is now sober — felt uneasy about these personal moments being broadcasted to his fans. She told Vulture, "For him to tell it — does it hurt, it is a bit embarrassing? Yes, but Jermaine was given a gift." She's described her son as coming from a place of compassion and unconditional love. "Humans have been self-medicating since the beginning of time, but let's talk why," she explained. She's hopeful her son's lyrics can help start important discussions around addiction.

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

J. Cole tried to keep his marriage a secret

One of the most famous topics in J. Cole's music is love. He always rapped about one special lady in his songs and made sure to publicly claim her as his long-time girlfriend early on in his career. The rapper never elaborated on his personal life further than that. However, a bombshell was accidentally dropped in a rare 2018 interview with "Black Panther" director Ryan Coogler. 

During this in-depth discussion, Coogler suddenly asks J. Cole, "How did getting married change you, bro?" As Cole responded with a look of shock, Coogler then understood that him being married was a secret the public didn't know -– and wasn't supposed to. "Nobody knows?" Coogler asked him, "Well, they know now," Cole jokingly responded. 

In a later interview with Vulture, J. Cole spoke in-depth about how getting married and having his first child changed his lifestyle. "Family can literally be the thing you always needed, bring balance and meaning and fuel your creativity, give you purpose," he said.

Shut down rumors of a sex tape with Rihanna

Just days before his debut album was released in 2011, a rumor circulated on the blogs about Roc Nation label mates Rihanna and J. Cole having a secret sex tape about to leak. The pair were on tour together at the time, with Cole opening up on Rihanna's Loud Tour. In typical Rihanna fashion, she bluntly shut down the rumors, tweeting, "We don't believe U, U need more people ... AND ofcourse an actual sextape! #Slownewsday." 

During an interview with Global Grind, Cole revealed that the sex tape rumors gave him a taste of what being famous is like, saying, "It's crazy, ridiculous. I never really had to deal with anything crazy like that before. I can just imagine what real super duper celebrities go through, but I don't even care to talk about it." 

While speaking with Angie Martinez, Cole not only denied the existence of a sex tape but also shut down rumors that the pair was even dating. He confirmed having a long-time girlfriend and joked that she didn't handle the Rihanna rumors too well.

He had a fight with Diddy

Imagine a time when two celebrities could get into scuffle and there was no video proof of it. That's apparently what went down at a 2013 VMA afterparty. This hip-hop mystery involves Diddy, J. Cole, and Kendrick Lamar. For years, everyone has alluded to something going down but danced around the details. What made it more confusing was that photos and videos were never released, and the cause of the altercation was never confirmed. 

It was speculated that the ruckus started after Diddy confronted Kendrick Lamar over his controversial "Control" verse in which he labeled himself the "King of New York." It was rumored that Cole stepped in to defend Lamar, and thus, the fight ensued. Shortly afterward, Cole's manager hopped on Twitter and denied that he was beaten up and thrown out of the party. In an effort to squash the rumors, Cole and Diddy later posted a lighthearted video together poking fun at the fight. 

Years have gone by, and the full story hasn't been told yet, but on his 2021 album, J. Cole does confirm the infamous scuffle happened. On a track titled "Let Go My Hand," Cole raps, "My last scrap was with Puff Daddy, who would've thought it?" It closes with an appearance by Diddy delivering a prayer about love. 

On a podcast, Cole's manager Ibrahim Hamad confirmed the fight happened (in front of Beyoncé!) but still didn't say what caused the fight. This reported fight will apparently always remain a mystery.

Jay-Z snubbed J. Cole before signing him

Despite J. Cole being the first artist signed to the Roc Nation label, Jay-Z didn't always believe in his protégé. In 2007, long before he had his own songs topping the chars, J. Cole was just an aspiring rapper and producer hoping to make a track for his favorite rapper, Jay-Z. In fact, he was so determined that he and a friend made a CD full of beats and stood in the pouring rain outside Jay-Z's studio while he was recording his "American Gangster" album. 

In an interview with Angela Yee, Cole explained how that night didn't go the way he expected it to. According to him, when he tried to give the CD to Jay-Z, the rapper looked at it and said, "I don't want this s**t." Cole took the snub in stride and kept working on his own music. In 2009, after hearing his mixtapes, Jay-Z was eager to sign him. This story proves that sometimes your idols become your rivals ... and then your boss!

The emcee made his dream of playing pro basketball come true

Even though he solidified himself as a star in music, J. Cole never let his basketball dreams die. As loyal fans know, basketball was always his first love. The rapper showed his skills on the court during the 2012 NBA All-Star Celebrity Game where he dunked the ball thanks to a sick alley-oop from Kevin Hart. In 2019, he impressed fans and NBA players again when he attempted another dunk during a dunk contest.

After dropping his 2021 "The Off-Season" album, fans were shocked to see him actually suit up to play professional basketball in the African league. After many less than stellar performances, one player in the African league spoke out about him. Terrell Stoglin told ESPN, "I think there's a negative and a positive [to J. Cole's presence], the negative part of it is: I think he took someone's job that deserves it." 

Stoglin pointed out that during COVID, many players had their careers halted and were waiting for an opportunity to play again. "For a guy who has so much money and has another career to just come here and average, like, one point a game and still get glorified is very disrespectful to the game. It's disrespectful to the ones who sacrificed their whole lives for this." 

After just three games, the rapper left the league due to a "family obligation," according to ESPN. He later thanked his teammates in a lengthy Instagram post.

J. Cole dissed the Grammys

In 2013, after two of his albums were snubbed by the Grammys, J. Cole held up a fanmade sign at his Birmingham concert that read "F*** the Grammys." Over the years, he's always been vocal about the lack of respect he feels the Grammy organization has shown the hip hop category, and especially Black artists. In 2014, after the Grammys awarded Best Rap Album to Macklemore over Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole took aim at artists like Iggy Azalea and Eminem on a track titled "Firing Squad." In the lyrics, he makes references to the Grammys historically awarding commercial artists like them over traditional rap music made by Black artists. 

In 2019, he congratulated Cardi B after her Grammy win and gave a message to other artists who may feel overlooked. "I went through a lot of heart break the first half of my career, maybe even longer, cuz deep down I needed that validation that I thought the awards could bring," he tweeted. "No award show could ever get it all the way right. Especially one that ain't run by us," he wrote in a follow-up tweet. 

With over 16 nominations and six critically acclaimed solo albums, it's a shock that his first and only Grammy win was in 2020 for a 21 Savage song he featured on.

He's a father of two young boys

In a rare 2019 interview with GQ, J. Cole spoke about having a son and his life as a new father. "I changed my life in order to get ready to have a family and to have a son. I literally changed my life, where I was living, the things that I was doing. I changed. So because of that, when my son came, I was ready," he said. In the following year, Cole published a personal essay in The Players Tribune about his growing love for basketball and how he's been able to balance honing his craft and making time for a personal life. 

He recounted his journey from a young boy to a 35-year-old who made his dreams come true. While telling his personal story of growth, he also confirmed that he was now a father of two young sons. The names of his children are still unknown, and he and his wife have never shared photos of them online. No matter how famous he's become, he's always been able to keep his personal life private.

J. Cole's net worth is growing

From dreamer to mogul. Just like his mentor Jay-Z, J. Cole used music as a stepping stone. With a record label, a production company, and his own signature shoe with Puma, it's no surprise that he made it on the Forbes Hip Hop's Cash Kings list in 2018. He's quietly made it to mogul status and accumulated a $60 million net worth along the way. 

Modeled after his own track "Dollar and a Dream," the rapper held intimate concerts for devoted fans and only charged them a dollar. In a music business heavily focused on sales, one may have found that idea crazy. But whether Cole is charging $1 or $250 for tickets, fans are always eager to see him live. His 2015 Forest Hills Drive tour was nothing short of a success. Billboard reported he made $16.4 million in the third leg of the tour, and his Madison Square Garden show alone grossed $1 million in sales. 

When he's not selling out arenas around the world, he's continuing to expand his Dreamville empire with big goals in mind. "Dreamville has always been a mom-and-pop operation with grand ambitions and ideas that extend far beyond music," he told Variety. His net worth is something he's worked hard for but probably not what he focuses on the most. As he said on the track "Love Yourz:" "For what's money without happiness?"