He had always loved music as a kid, and his passion was nurtured by his mother who bought him a musical sampler in 2000 as a Christmas gift, then again a Roland TR-808 drum machine, which helped him to further his understanding of production and improve his skills. Years later he began producing songs and posting them on different internet forums, using the name ‘Therapist’ as a pseudonym.
It was during this time he created a CD’s worth of instrumentals, and hoping to play it to Jay-Z, he travelled to Roc the Mic Studio where Jay-Z was in session. However, after waiting for three hours, he was dismissed. Cole later used the CD as the backdrop for his debut mixtape, The Come Up. Interestingly, in a turn of events, J. Cole ended up being the first artist signed to Jay-Z’s Roc Nation label in 2010.
Several mix tapes, five studio albums and high profile collaborations later, J. Cole is a recognisable, award winning artist performing all over the world.
J. Cole in Lagos
Lagos is the mega cultural hub of all things music and entertainment in Nigeria, and the whole of the West Africa region. Fondly referred to as Africa’s Big Apple, it is home to many hip hop and rap music fans.
After headlining seven tours across the world throughout his career, in February 2018, J. Cole announced that he’d be performing at the Castle Lite Unlocks Music Experience concert in Lagos, Nigeria on April 27, 2018, his first ever in Africa. The concert was held at Eko Hotels and featured top Nigerian artists like Wizkid, Davido, M.I, Falz, Tiwa Savage and many more.
What this means for his African fans and the industry
After Cole’s announcement on Twitter in February, his Nigerian fans were in a frenzy and also took to the popular social media platform to share their excitement.
The concert was a successful event and Cole himself was surprised to see that the crowd easily followed the lyrics to the songs on his current album KOD, which at the time had only been released three weeks prior.
Cole however, isn’t the first international rapper to grace the stage in Africa’s giant, Nigeria. Since the early 90s, American hip hop and R&B stars alike have been performing in Lagos. However, with the advent of social media and how more easily the world is becoming connected, there has been a steady rise in the influx of international acts travelling to the buzzing city to serenade their fans with the latest from their repertoire.
Only a few weeks before Cole’s performance, UKs rap artist Skepta had also taken to stage in Lagos on April 2, for the Homecoming concert put on by his manager Grace Ladoja, a fellow British-Nigerian. Also, Kanye West, Drake, Timbaland, Travis Scott, Chance the Rapper, Bryson Tiller, Wiz Khalifa, and Nas are other artists who’ve performed in Lagos at concerts put on by the same organizers, Castle Lite.
In addition to this, recent years have seen Nigerians in the diaspora return to the country to make a career in music where one in the West had proved futile. These artists like Tiwa Savage, Seyi Shay, and Emma Nyra are now widely celebrated by Afrobeat fans across the continent and in the West. Also, American artists of Nigerian descent, like Jidenna, Tinie Tempah and Wale have returned to the country on several occasions in order to build relationships with the Afrobeat stars who are spearheading the genre, which is fast becoming a world wide phenomena. You can now walk into a big chain supermarket in London and hear the likes of Wizkid or Davido blasting out of the airwaves.
With the increase in major concerts and festivals being put on by international artists in Nigeria and other African nations, this might well be the start to Nigeria as the next emerging market for the pop music industry, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see that more Western artists start to include Lagos as a standard to the list of cities on their touring agenda.