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J. Cole teams with HBO for January concert film

J. Cole teams with HBO for January concert film
J. Cole will anchor an HBO concert film set in his hometown of Fayetteville, N.C., that will air in January. (Vlad Sepetov)

J. Cole is coming to HBO for a concert special in January, the network announced on Thursday.

Part concert film, part backstage look, the concert special will trace the rapper's life story though his own words and music, as well as interviews from those around him.

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The concert was filmed during the hometown stop of his sold-out "Forest Hills Drive" tour — his first arena trek — in Fayetteville, N.C.

Cole's hometown concert featured guest appearances by mentor Jay Z and Drake, along with the tour's supporting acts Big Sean, YG, Jeremih, and artists from Cole's Dreamville imprint.

Named after the home he grew up in and later purchased, the rapper's third album traces his story of leaving North Carolina, moving to New York and chasing rap stardom, following his progression from wide-eyed romantic to jaded star.

Released late last year with little to no pre-release hype, the album sold 350,000 copies in its first week and went on to become the first hip-hop record in 25 years to go platinum without a single guest feature. Cole performs the album in its entirety on the tour.

Cole's story is one of rap's best Cinderella tales. Born in Frankfurt, Germany, and raised in Fayetteville, N.C., he waited until after he graduated college with a degree in communications (with magna cum laude honors at that) to chase his music dreams.

He worked up the courage to wait outside Jay Z's New York office and hand him a CD of beats he produced in hopes of the hip-hop mogul using them for his own album. Cole was quickly shot down, but their paths eventually crossed and Jay finally took notice, eventually signing him to his Roc Nation imprint in 2009.

But Cole sat on the sidelines as the label struggled to find a single to launch him. He took matters in his own hands and issued a set of mix tapes, 2009's "The Warm Up" and 2010's "Friday Night Lights," which amassed an underground following and critical kudos. He then toured extensively, building his own buzz and a dedicated fan base from the ground up.

His debut finally came out in 2011. "Cole World: The Sideline Story" landed at No. 1 without a radio hit — taking him from underground rapper to  Grammy-nominated superstar. He followed up his debut with 2013's "Born Sinner," which he famously altered the release date in order to compete with Kanye West's "Yeezus" (West won opening week, with Cole reaching No. 1 two weeks later).

"J. Cole Forest Hills Drive: Homecoming" airs Jan. 9 at 10 p.m.

For more music news follow me on Twitter: @gerrickkennedy

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