Jermaine Lamarr Cole was born on January 28, 1985, at an American military base in Frankfurt, West Germany. His father is an African-American veteran, who served in the U. S. Army, and his mother, Kay, is a European American who was a postal worker for the United States Postal Service. Cole's father later abandoned the family during his youth. At the age of eight months his mother moved with him and his older brother Zach to the United States, to Fayetteville, North Carolina. Cole grew up in a multi-ethnic environment, and when asked about how closely his ethnicity impacts him, Cole commented, "I can identify with white people, because I know my mother, her side of the family, who I love. But at the end of the day, [I've] never felt white. I can identify [with white people] but never have I felt like I'm one of them. I identify more with what I look like, because that's how I got treated [but] not necessarily in a negative way". During his youth, Cole expressed an affinity for basketball and music, and served as a first-chair violinist for the Terry Sanford Orchestra until 2003.