Before he was signed with Roc Nation and topping charts with his debut album, Cole World: The Sideline Story, 17-year-old Jermaine Cole was still trying to find his hip-hop identity. And on this week's episode of "When I Was 17," North Carolina native
"When I was 17, I had been rapping for what, five years, at that point," Cole reveals on Saturday's show, which airs at 11 a.m. ET on MTV. "There was a local group named Bomb Shelter that had been mentoring me since I was 14 years old."
And it was Bomb Shelter that really got J. Cole thinking about a catchy rap name. "One [group member] was Nervous Reck and the other was Filthy Ritch. I was like man, 'Those are the most creative rap names I ever heard. I need a rap name like that!' " Cole recalls.
So the budding rapper did what any smart guy would do — he hit the books.
"We used to look through the dictionary for rap names," he says, "I could never find nothing. One day these dudes [Bomb Shelter] were like, 'Yo, we got a name for you, it's Therapist,' " he said.
While J. Cole wasn't entirely feeling the name, he decided to test it out with the help of his mentors. His friend, Nervous Reck, thought Cole could make it work by playing up the doctor angle. "I was like maybe it could work, you just gotta play on the whole doctor image and being therapeutic and your music is therapeutic," Nervous Reck explains on the episode.
So Cole rocked with the moniker Therapist for a while, figuring his mentors knew better than he did about these matters.
"A few years later, I realized Therapist sounded like a wrestler's name," Cole laughs. "You know, like an alias. It didn't feel real."
So he ditched Therapist and adopted J. Cole. "J. Cole felt like my real name. That was a real natural fit. It didn't feel like I was trying to be anything."
We think his fans would agree: Therapist World just doesn't have the same ring to it.
"When I Was 17" — this week featuring J. Cole, Robyn and Chad Michael Murray — airs on Saturday at 11a.m ET/PT on MTV.