From the birthplace of country music, it is hard to imagine that a Christian rapper or a rapper in general would come out of Bristol, Virginia; which is the twin city to Bristol, Tennessee.
Aaron Cole and his two younger siblings were raised by his parents in Virginia. Aaron started rapping at the age of 4 and he is now 17 trying to live out his dream.
“I feel like I am called to inspire this generation and let them know that their dreams are possible. Because I am a kid from Bristol, Virginia, [they] probably don’t know where that is and for me to do the things that I am doing… I feel I need to pour that out more and more to whoever I can,” Cole says. “So I feel like I put that in my music letting the people know the struggles I went through, I let the people know the people that didn’t believe in me and how that made me feel. Different stuff like that, to let them know that it can happen no matter what it is, no matter if it’s music, if you’re a doctor, lawyer or whatever. I feel like that is what I am called to do. Inspire.”
But this passion that he has to create music to inspire others almost died before he even took his first breath.
“My mom and dad were really young, my mom was 17 and my dad was 19. I was talking with my parents earlier this year. I don’t remember how it happened, we were just having a conversation.”
“It wasn’t crazy, I was just quiet. I didn’t snap or nothing like that. I didn’t know how to react,” Cole says. “At first my dad, just plays with me a lot. Me and my dad we kid around and he also keeps it real with me. I remember I was just like “What?!?!” I remember I came home, we were on our way back from a show or something, and I remember I came home and I was like, Mom did y’all almost abort me?’ and she was like, she just looked at my dad (Cole chuckles) and yeah they just talked to me about it.”
Like Cole says in the song “Shouldn’t Be Here,” the plan for the unplanned pregnancy was for his mother to terminate the pregnancy, but the doctor said she was too far along. “So I just thank God I have a life, bro. It made me reevaluate everything that I was doing and my life in general,” he added.
“It just made me reevaluate everything. My music, my walk with Christ, everything. I understood, so I am still cool with both of my parents. Both of my parents are like my biggest fans. They love me so much, but yeah, it was a crazy feeling. I actually cried when I wrote that song.”
When speaking with Cole, his voiced began to tremble at the reality of his parent’s decision and for God’s grace. He has thoughts of the alternative, of what could have been.
“The doctor could have been like, ‘ok we gonna try this,'” Cole began to fumble and mutter his words and his voice began to crack, “Like he could’ve sucked me out.”
For Aaron, his life was close to being terminated and he wouldn’t just be another statistic. He would have been an unique statistic. Aaron Cole was born on February 28, 1999 and in all of Bristol for 1999 there were three abortions.
According to Virginia’s Induced Termination statistics, if Cole’s life was ended, he would’ve been the only Black child whose life was terminated in Bristol.
“I would not have a life and that is a crazy thought to think about for me to just reflect on that and to write it knowing people are going to hear this, people were going to finally hear my story. It was a crazy feeling man,” he says.
A crazier feeling came for Aaron when he performed his song and afterwards an unexpected fan approached him.
“A girl ran up to me and was like, ‘Man my parents almost aborted me too.’ And I was like bro, that’s crazy. I thought when writing the song people would relate to it in a way like, ‘yeah I shouldn’t be here, I should’ve been in jail, I should’ve been dead too or someone shot me,” or something like that,” he says. “But the fact that someone had the exact same story as me, that their parents told them too. Man that was a crazy feeling. I guess it was just that whole thought man, that whole perspective of you really not having a life, you really might not have this chance to even breathe, let alone to do music and use your gifts for his glory. ”
The sanctity, preciousness and the miracle of life is truly a gift from God and Aaron recognizes that saying, “I really wouldn’t have a life and I really wouldn’t be able to do what I am doing, so I need to be grateful and everything I get to do whether its 5 people at a show or 5,000 people at a show, whatever, I still need to treat this as an opportunity to do what I am doing because I really Shouldn’t Be Here.”
From not supposed to be here to being here, Aaron’s parents have been very supportive of his music, as he started rapping at 4-years old. You can hear the ambition in his voice of wanting to be an artist. Aaron’s uncle was a Christian rapper and his dad had a studio. Aaron quickly picked up on his uncle’s lyrics and started to recite them. When Aaron got his start, he couldn’t read, so his parents would help him go over the lyrics. (Check the proof.)
By the time Aaron Cole was 15, he dropped XV; a 7 song project that caught the ear of many and even earning him the honors of being named one of Essence magazine ‘Top 16 Gospel Artist To Watch in 2015‘.
Aaron feels differently about the project now looking back.
“At that point, I was still trying to figure it out. I don’t even listen to that project anymore,” Cole laughed saying. “But at that point, I [was like] I’m gonna make it no matter what. I’m gonna make it out of Bristol type thing.”
“Bristol, Virginia is kinda like, if you come here it has a city/country vibe. We are starting to grow. They actually call Bristol the birthplace of country music. No rappers ever came outta here, no big people ever really came out of here,” Cole says. “So for me to come out of here, I’m not even where I feel like God is going to take me.”
“It actually open up a lot of doors that’s how I got connected with a lot of people I know now. But yeah I don’t even listen to that project bro, I dont even like it,” Cole says.
Cole started working closely with Cobra Music Group, which is a production duo made up of Dirty Rice and Joseph Prielozny who has produced for CHH heavyhitters such as Lecrae and Derek Minor. Cobra Music Group produced 5 out of the six songs for Aaron’s latest project.
So between XV and the release of If I Can Be Honest Aaron Cole was on the grind where he says he made over 100 songs which he hasn’t released trying to get better. In what ways has Aaron gotten better? “The whole thing bro! My delivery, my lyrics, how I put songs together, the production of course,” Aaron says, “It’s literally two different people.”
The grind to get to the more polished Aaron Cole was difficult. He had the validations and expectation to release something major, but nothing was happening. Aaron was discouraged that folks would lose interest in his music.
“To be honest, this was, I think at the end of last year and I was still struggling. I haven’t put out music for 2 years. I was starting to get recognition and people started to look at me without putting music out and people was asking for music. ‘Yo Aaron, Where’s the music at?’ And so much pressure from everywhere, so I was down in the dumps and I feel like some things might fall down and people will start unfollowing me.”
So one night on Snapchat, he messages his friend, Th3 Saga, and tells him what he has been going through. “Saga is like my big bro. I knew Saga for maybe two years now. We just been building,” Aaron says. “We were talking one night. Cause you know, like on Snapchat now, you can send like voice memos. We were talking back and forth trying to figure it out. Then we got to talking on that mug. I was sharing with him like, ‘Bro, I am starting to get discouraged, I haven’t put out any new music. Things are not going the way I want them to.’”
Pressure began to build, questions were being asked and there wasn’t too many answers.
“And like I said before, I was down because I haven’t put out any music man,” Cole said.
Th3 Saga sent back Aaron a strong word of encouragement.
“He sent back, how it is [in “The Intro”], he sent that back. I saved it and like I gotta use this. And it wasn’t like I called him up, ‘Bro, I need you to drop something,’ [No] We were actually talking.”
And when it came time to create his EP, Aaron used that voice memo to kick off the project for “The Intro“.
“That was another thing that boost me up and gave me confidence in the Lord. This is really what God has called me to do and God has his hand on the situation, and patience is going to win in the end run. And it actually did win. I built enough to go top 30 on iTunes. I still cant believe that.”
Aaron took this low point in his life and flipped it, to tell the world he is the greatest.
“It’s like a motivational song for anybody that felt unappreciated or unloved, felt like they couldn’t do it or felt like less than what someone was telling them. I felt like I needed to make that song because I dealt with that, I dealt with feeling like I was worthless, feeling like no one cared about what I was doing, no one cared about the accomplishments I was making,” he said. That’s why I said in the song, “My teacher always thought I would be the last dude. But four years later what do you know I graduated with a four to the o (4.0gpa).”
“Like teachers really thought… I went to a predominantly white school, so like we had a couple of groups of black people but it was predominantly white, and I remember so many teachers would just treat me different. They would treat me like, “he’s just a black kid, he’s not gonna do anything. He might make a C or a B’ but actually I was a smart kid. So that whole song was about motivation and self confidence,” he added.
Aaron ended up graduating a whole year early and plans to continue to pursue music. Aaron says that he has received a lot of flak for saying he is the greatest, even though he recites a lot of scripture in the song, but he believes the elevation of his platform and career is to reach people.
Outside of Bristol, VA, Aaron plans to do it big.
“I feel like my big picture or like I said before, my purpose, I want to inspire as many people as I can,” Aaron says. “Doing what God has called them to do and letting them know God has a purpose for their life. No matter what has happened in their life. They still have a purpose and God has a plan for them.”