Biography All Music Guide
All Music Guide:
With his accessible urban charm and his talent for matching breakbeat culture's incendiary phobias with the Hi-NRG of pop and acid R&B, MJ Cole was one of U.K. garage's first true stars. Ultimately renting himself out for Mariah Carey and De La Soul remixes, Cole began with drum'n'bass label SOUR, where he worked in the initially unassuming position of tape operator. After slogging up to an engineering title for names like Freq Nasty and Ed Rush, he caught the garage bug in the middle of 1996 while working on Ramsey & Fen's 2-step remixes for Kym Mazelle. It was there that solo maneuvers began to form. At first rejected by every distributor in the U.K., an early self-production "Sincere" found root at AM:PM and became one of the earliest garage records to crack Britain's Top 40, which at the time was focused on widescreen indie and Fatboy Slim. Two years after the single's surprise success, Cole issued his debut full-length of the same name. The album's quick, crisp, and vigorously mainstream production style earned him a Mercury Prize nomination although many critics lambasted it for devolving to the lowest common denominator, hobbling U.K. garage's respectability in its infancy.