How do you live in the shadow of a legend, and manage to stand firmly on your own two feet? Debuting an album #1, achieving Gold status and a Grammy Nomination aren’t bad starting points. J. Cole answered every critic he had in 2011. With no overly popular radio single to his debut album, Cole World: The Sideline Story, he proved that there is success in staying true to yourself in Hip-Hop music.

Prior to Cole’s 2011 debut, he released several mixtapes that were seen as classic compilations, and a testament to his overall artistry. However, over time the doubts began to pile up, as to whether or not it was Jay-Z’s shadow that was hindering Cole’s growth. Cole answered that call with a monster verse on Hov’s “A Star is Born,” and assisted Miguel on his single “All I Want Is You.” If that wasn’t enough convincing, Cole addressed all doubters with his Jay-Z assisted, “Mr. Nice Watch”.

Cole’s sophomore album will say a lot as to how far he can go, and after setting the bar so high with his debut, consistency will be key. The talent for Cole to remain towards the top of the list among his peers is definitely there. His ability to produce a majority of his own music also bodes well for his longevity, and staying power. J. Cole is for sure, a star to watch in 2012 and beyond.

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