There aren’t many rappers out there with the bravado to name-check icons like Martin Luther King Jr. and Mozart, but J. Cole isn’t like other rappers.
Cole has been called “brainier than most MCs” by Rolling Stone and there’s good reason for it; his music combines a street sensibility, intelligent rhymes and a slice of social consciousness.
After attending NYC’s St. John’s University on academic scholarship, Cole, who’d been rapping and posting songs online since he was a teen, caught the ear of Jay-Z and his Roc Nation label with a mixtape.
Two years later Cole’s mixtapes, along with college tours and support slots for Jay-Z, Drake and Rihanna, set him up for a successful solo club and theatre run this fall.
ICM agent Robert Gibbs told Pollstar one of the most impressive things about J. Cole is how quickly his dates have sold out – even before Cole’s debut album Cole World: The Sideline Story dropped in September.
“When we put the tour dates up, there was nothing happening at radio,” Gibbs said. “This is all built on his artist development and touring over the past couple years, playing the colleges, playing the small clubs and staying connected with his fans virally.”
He credits J. Cole’s management team at Bystorm Entertainment, Cole’s company Dreamville and tour consultant Shawn Gee with leading the charge to develop Cole’s fan base, which already stretches over to the U.K. and Europe where Cole is currently touring.
Cole will play 155 shows by year’s end, Gibbs said, before taking a couple months off to record a new album. Discussions are under way for another college tour and large theatre run in 2012.