Meet Michael: Jewish Hip Hop Singer-Songwriter of the Week

by GatherDC Staff / December 14, 2021

Looking to meet a musical and creative genius? Well, look no further than Michael Cole. This lawyer-by-day is also a professional musician who just released a new single! Read on to learn more about how this DC-lifer spends his days running, volunteering, writing, and of course…making music!

GatherDC: Tell me what brought you to the DC area, and why you’ve stayed? 

Michael: I came for a full-time, semester-long legal internship at DOJ in 2009 while I was in law school at Vermont [Law School]. I loved the city and knew I wanted to make it my home. After I graduated in 2010, I came back, earned an LL.M. (Master of Laws) at GW Law in environmental law, and then started a great job at an independent Federal agency, which is where I’ve been for almost ten years! I’ve been in DC for over 12 years, and love it.

GatherDC: Wow, you’re a lifer by DC standards! Describe your dream day in the DMV from start to finish.

Michael: My dream day in the DMV would start out by me running 10 miles—my favorite distance—on the Rock Creek Trail or throughout the city, preferably with my running group. I really like running races with other people. Various DC organizations, including my running club at Pacers Running, put on a number of awesome races throughout the year.  Although I’ve been fortunate to run a marathon and several half marathons, the Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run is one of my personal favorites—it’s definitely a classic DC bucket list item.

After that, I would go grab coffee with a friend or two (or maybe with an exciting date) at one of my favorite local coffee shops. Emissary in Dupont and The Wydown in Logan Circle are two of my favorite coffee spots. I love supporting local businesses in the area and those are some of my go-to locations.

Once I get my caffeine buzz, I would probably spend some time volunteering at the Capital Area Food Bank in NE. They are the largest food distribution organization in the DMV area working to solve hunger and malnutrition for people in need. Hunger and poverty are such issues in the area, especially with the pandemic. I really like being able to spend some time paying it forward and working on the assembly line to get food out to people unable to afford anything to eat.

Now that I have worked up a bit of an appetite, I would go out and grab happy hour with friends or get dinner somewhere from one of the many amazing restaurants in the area!  My personal dinner favorites are seafood or Ethiopian cuisine. I really like Zenebech in Adams Morgan. They basically know me by name there because I’ve been going there since 2009.  The vegetarian combination platter they have is one of my personal favorites—it’s so flavorful and good.

I would probably end my perfect day with an impromptu karaoke house party at my place in Logan Circle. I’m super extroverted and love to host and also love being spontaneous. Those things can be a deadly combination. It can also result in some of the best and most fun nights. I love to plan house parties as well—they are a ton of fun!  Leading up to the pandemic, I had a well-established tradition of throwing two major theme house parties every year—one in the winter and one in the summer. We kept it going strong for over five years, until Covid hit. Usually they would be disco-nightclub- themed, but we also did fiesta parties and Hawaiian shirt parties as well. I look forward to hopefully being able to resume that tradition once it’s safer to gather.  Because in a perfect world in the DMV area, that would be the perfect ending to a perfect day!

GatherDC: It sounds like you lead a really active lifestyle. What do you do to relax at the end of a long week? 

Michael: Honestly, sometimes after a long work week on a Friday, I like to unwind and relax by cooking or ordering takeout and watching Netflix. Having some time for myself can be a nice way to recharge for the weekend fun!

GatherDC: What is something people might be surprised to learn about you?

Michael: A lot of people who don’t know me might be surprised to learn that I’m an unsigned independent hip hop musician/singer-songwriter who’s been on the scene for over 20 years. My music tends to be on the funny and lighthearted side—think Macklemore or the Black Eyed Peas. I write my own songs, mix and record tracks professionally in a studio, collaborate with other musicians and artists, and perform live at open mics/venues and other people’s parties on a regular basis. 

GatherDC: How did you get into music initially?

Michael: In elementary school I was a super shy kid, but I was fortunate to have very encouraging music teachers who encouraged me to pursue music and follow my passions. I  sang in choir from fourth grade until high school, and began taking voice lessons. It wasn’t until my freshman year in high school that I was directly exposed to hip-hop culture. I was fortunate to go to a very racially and ethnically diverse high school,  which meant that kids would freestyle rap in groups for fun in the hallways between classes. Even though I’d enjoyed listening to ‘90s rap music growing up, this was definitely a new experience for me. I loved it. I also wanted to fit in—and more importantly, I wanted to express myself.

Music has been a lifesaving creative outlet for me to express myself—these days especially.I write about my life, things I’ve been through, things I’ve seen, and things that matter to me. Or I write about something funny to make people laugh. 🙂

GatherDC: Is there anything of yours we should listen to?

Michael: Exciting news update on that front—I have a new single that I just released called “One Day at a Time.” It features prominent local R&B singer-songwriter Mary-eL (Mary Lankford) who crushes the hook!  We’ve gotten a lot of exciting buzz on various independent hip hop music blogs and curated playlists, and I just found out it will be aired on a nationally distributed radio show. If anyone one year ago would have told me this would happen, I wouldn’t have believed it. It’s super exciting! [Editor’s note: check out the music video here!]

GatherDC: Ok, we have to ask…what’s on your Spotify Wrapped 2021 top songs list?

“Lose Yourself” by Eminem, “Santeria” by Sublime, “Kings and Queens” by Ava Max, “Same Love” by Macklemore, and “Shape of You” by Ed Sheeran. 

GatherDC: Other than music, have you found any new fun hobbies over the course of the pandemic? 

Michael: Over the course of this pandemic, I’ve been wearing a lot of different hats. Aside from music, I’ve continued to work on legal scholarship (outside of work). I’ve published about six or so law review articles, and have been fortunate to be able to co-author two book chapters for the American Bar Association with two George Washington University professors. I took over a month of vacation time from my job to work hard during the pandemic on a couple new articles, and I am happy to report they are each set to be published in 2022 in the Lewis & Clark Law Review and the South Carolina Law Review!  One of them is about hate speech and the First Amendment, and the other one is about current issues involving debt and Public Student Loan Forgiveness—two very relevant topics. I am super excited and it feels satisfying to see the hard work pay off.

GatherDC: And, our last question as always—finish this sentence: “When Jews of DC Gather…”

Michael: We eat, drink, sing, and be merry!

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