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Fayetteville, N.C. native Jermaine Lamarr Cole, better known to hip-hop fans as J. Cole, is one of the the new young guns of hip-hop. Just 30, Cole has established himself as one of hip-hop’s most thoughtful artists as well as one of its most prolific lyrically.

He’s released three studio albums and four mixtapes thus far and is renowned for his thoughtful storytelling. It’s no surprise that he counts Nas among his influences. In fact, he recorded a song called “Let Nas Down” to show just how much he reveres the rap icon, also among the genre’s great lyricists.

Cole has earned a rare distinction among musicians of any genre – he graduated summa cum laude from St. John’s University in Queens, N.Y. Though he was once dissed by Jay-Z outside a New York recording studio, he’s now on Roc Nation, Jay’s imprint.

Evidently, Cole’s undeniable talents won out.

“Free” (Tribute to Michael Brown)

“Crooked Smile”

“Nobody’s Perfect (with Missy Elliott)”

“Sideline Story”

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