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Published 2023.11.22
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How To Rap

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Imagine a young J. Cole, headphones on, lost in the beats and rhymes that would one day become the backdrop for his own story—a story of transformation from an amateur rapper in his bedroom to a musical icon. 

Indeed, his journey in the rap game is a legacy of raw ambition, introspective thought, and the relentless grind that shapes a legend. 

But - how did this self-taught lyricist from the humble roads of South carve his own path to global superstardom with words, beats, and flow? 


Master The Art of Freestyle Rap In 2 Weeks or Less (COURSE MENTIONED):


0:00 Introduction 
0:42 Step 1:  Integrating Influences
3:36 Step 2: Sharing Stories
6:35 Step 3: From Amateur To Professional
10:20 Step 4: Becoming A Household Name
13:19 Step 5: Becoming An Icon 


Jermaine Lamarr Cole, known to the world as J. Cole, first saw the light of day on an American military base in Frankfurt, West Germany, on January 28, 1985. 
His father - an African-American military veteran, and his mother -  a White postal worker named Kay from Michigan - would soon see their family split as his father left them. 

Before his first birthday, Cole's mother moved him and his older brother to Fayetteville, North Carolina - marking the beginning of a new chapter.

Growing up, Cole's musical landscape was diverse. 
He was never shy to embrace music, even from genres far removed from hip-hop, like bluegrass. 
But as he matured, rap captured his imagination more than anything else. 

He dived into the regional Hip-Hop scene, freestyling in local clubs, and sharpening his skills alongside local acts.

But it was the late 1990s were most pivotal for Cole’s musical development. 

In 2003, celebrating his high school graduation and his 18th birthday, he navigated the significant shift from youth to maturity. 
In the backdrop of Fayetteville, North Carolina, Cole was already deeply entrenched in the musical world, diligently filling notebooks with lyrics. 

The writings of Cole were thoughtful contemplations on his personal thoughts and experiences. 
His track "03' Adolescence” on the nostalgic album 2014 Forest Hills Drive offers a window into his mindset during that time, capturing his battles with self-perception, young love, and the illusions of an unburdened life. 

It is during this period that we truly see Cole embrace the next step in his journey to learn how to rap, by realizing that he must “share stories” in his music rather than just be “good at rapping”. 

As we all know by know, this unique storytelling ability would later become one of Cole’s most well-known skills at helping him to standout as a legendary artist. 

Now, Cole’s journey also took a new turn that same year - 2003 - as he delved into music production. 

After his high school success, he transitioned to New York City, enrolling at St. John's University with a scholarship. 

By 2007, Cole was placing greater emphasis on intricate wordplay, drawing from the prowess of legends such as Nas, Jay-Z, and The Notorious B.I.G. 

He began to incorporate more profound themes into his lyrics, narrating both his personal journey and his take on societal issues, yet his music remained relatable to a broad spectrum of listeners.

His first mixtape, "The Come Up," debuted on May 4, 2007, marking the beginning of what would become a significant rap career. 

Released with the help of DJ OnPoint, the mixtape showcased Cole's emerging skill and his determination to be recognized as a major player in the rap industry, contending with influential contemporaries like Lil’ Wayne.

On this mixtape, Cole took charge of producing most of the tracks and introduced his first single, "Simba." 

The mixtape sampled a variety of hip-hop icons, including Kanye West and Nas, and featured collaborations with artists like Deacon and Nervous Reck. 

Released on September 27, 2011, by Roc Nation and Columbia Records, "Cole World: The Sideline Story" marked the impactful entrance of J. Cole into the mainstream music world. 

This album mirrors the experiences of J. Cole’s youth, marked by refined lyricism and his adaptability in delivering diverse musical flows. 

It stands as a body of work that has grown from his roots in Fayetteville, North Carolina, and blossomed under the influence of his connection with Jay-Z's Roc Nation. 

And following the success of his mixtapes "The Warm Up" and "Friday Night Lights", this album was eagerly anticipated and well-received upon release.

We can trace the intricate storytelling skills of J. Cole developed in the earlier steps in songs like "Lost Ones," which showcases his capacity for incorporating complex stories within his lyrics. 

With J. Cole taking the helm on production for the majority of the album, there's also a noticeable evolution in his production techniques.