Cole Edwards is musician, music manager, creative director and model all at 21 years old and says he still wants more in 2023. Edwards believes in the power of Black art and wants to support it any way he can whether he is behind the camera, in front of the camera, or buying his friends art pieces.
Edwards, also known as Coley, is a business management student in his third year at Howard University. Before coming to Howard, he caught glimpses of life at Mecca through his elder brother. This gave him the opportunity to do more than the standard tour of campus. He was going to parties and meeting students, giving him a chance to solidify his desire to go to Howard. Edwards, like many Howard applicants, was yearning to be in a space that was meant for Black students to thrive. The predominantly white high school he attended in New York showed him everything he didn’t want in his collegiate matriculation.
“I was, like, considered a delinquent for small things like wearing a durag,” he said. “I just knew I wanted to be around Black excellence culture.”
Before Edwards came to Howard, he was creating that uplifting Black creative space that he knew Howard to be, back home in New York. It started with him managing his friend, Tajjae Maycock, who he’d known since the sixth grade. When Edwards heard his music, he knew he had to ensure that he did everything he could to propel his friend’s music career. Edwards helped him with rolling out his work, making a merch collection and, most importantly, getting him performance gigs.
“I don’t think anyone is better at making music than me. I heard him and I was like ‘Nah he’s better than me’ I gotta help him, lift him up,” Edwards said. He didn’t stop with Maycock, whose stage name is Holy Guru, and began doing similar work for more of his friends.
“I noticed how many people around me also do music, rap, sing and play instruments…and I wanted to help them instead of compete with them,” Edwards said.
Edwards searched for venues and spaces to showcase his friends’ music. In the summer of 2021, the owner of the New York media company he interned with, 212, funded a showcase for him. It did well and he continued doing these showcases, getting better each time and eventually made it a weekly event. When he came to Howard that fall, he already had experience and confidence dripping from his smile to his walk. He immediately developed professional relationships with other creatives and began figuring out ways to make his late-night visions come to life.
“The first couple people I knew here were photographers and I’m just like ‘Yo let’s cook something up,’” he said.
To Edwards, art is a form of expression. When he is up late, pondering about life, “in his bag” about what to do next, he uses that as motivation to create something new. Then, he reaches out to the necessary people who can help him make it happen.
“So, I just took some emotions deep within my head and hit up a photographer with the idea and thankfully they were willing to collaborate with me,” Edwards said. “Sometimes for free, sometimes for a low price.”
Edwards did the same thing with 237 Entertainment, where he now serves as a creative director. He knew that he had the capability to organize through his work as a music manager and wanted to take that skill set and broaden his range to other forms of art. He got to work and pitched himself to the team through Instagram DM’s.
However he felt he may have come on a little too strong, saying he may have made them think he was just going to “run off with their money.” Edwards used his opportunity as a model in their show to get to know the team and try again. This gave him a chance to give a better pitch and get to know the team and through this informal interview, he got the job and has been putting on showcases for them since.
“I know [us] college students sometimes, you’re just like ‘What’s next for me’? Like, ‘Where’s my life going? What’s my purpose in life?’ That’s what sparks my creative direction or my photoshoots,” he said.
For Edwards, it is not just another job or way to make money. It is a passion driven by a need to release.
“I feel like it’s a need for my mental wellbeing to release these emotions somehow. When I pile those emotions on top of me, that’s no good for me,” he said. “I knew I had a need to tell my story and share my mindset with the world.”
Edwards is a hard worker who says he wants to be known for being a leader who’s honest, supportive and always fly. He wants to celebrate the work of others and create spaces for other young Black artists to be seen.
“I think it’s one of the most important things in the world to celebrate Black dreams,” said Edwards.
Copy edited by Jadyn Barnett