It's been a long road to release for J. Cole, who finally dropped his debut album, Cole World: The Sideline Story, in September after putting out several mixtapes. Now, the Roc Nation signee is seeing his hard work pay off with a nomination for Best New Artist at the 2012 Grammy Awards.
Cole World debuted at #1 in September and has sold more than 500,000 copies to date, making it an impressive freshman LP for a rapper. Make no mistake, though, Jermaine Cole's success has been a long time in the making.
After dropping his mixtape The Come Up in 2007, the North Carolina native polished his craft and released The Warm Up two years later, catching the ear of Jay-Z — specifically with the hit single "Lights Please" — and landing himself a record deal at Roc Nation. Even with Hov as his mentor, however, Jermaine continued to push things along with his own solo efforts.
His debut album was hit with a series of delays and he made up for the wait by releasing his late 2010 mixtape Friday Night Lights. Between his tapes and a few free-floating singles he'd recorded over the years, Cole had enough material to warrant an opening spot on Rihanna's Loud Tour in June.
When that wrapped, Cole kicked off his Any Given Sunday series in the summer of 2011, which found him releasing new tracks or EPs weekly, leading right into the debut of his first studio album. That persistent grind resulted in noteworthy album sales and a Grammy nomination, which Jay-Z said is well-deserved.
"I think it's great for him, because I'm sure it's a dream of his. We grew up seeing Michael Jackson, and I'm sure he grew up seeing whatever moment stuck in his mind, so I know it's great for him to do that," Hov told MTV News. "I think he's already won Best New Artist, to me. His journey is what I'm really excited about."
Tune into the Grammys at 8 p.m. ET Sunday on CBS to see if Cole takes home the award for Best New Artist. His competitors in the category are Nicki Minaj, Skrillex, Bon Iver and the Band Perry.
Chaos! Profanity! Wardrobe malfunctions! Don't miss Sway and James Montgomery live from the Grammys red carpet this Sunday, February 12, for a full three hours of mayhem, starting at 5 p.m. ET on MTV.com. And the fun doesn't end Sunday: MTV News has you covered until the Grammy hangover wears off!