"...Therefore from here on out, my hair grow out, I care nothin' 'bout opinions. I wanna give hope like the fountains you throw pennies in..." - J. Cole
Today, M|!D TV is thrilled to continue the Off the Stage Series, with rapper, producer, philanthropist, and business owner, Jermaine Cole, better known as J. Cole.
J. Cole has not necessarily put a new face on rap. Hold on, hold on, and let me explain. Rap artists or groups like Nas, The Roots, Talib Kweli, Common, and many many many others have set the “conscious” tone to the almost 4-decade old genre. However, the Roc Nation rapper brings that same perspective all while accomplishing massive commercial success. With lyrics like:
“Am I about dollars or change?/Am I about knowledge or brains?/Freedom or big chains? They don’t feel my pain...”
He creates songs that are approachable, analytical, and human so that ALL people can relate.
Like many ambitious musicians, he went to college, worked odd jobs to survive, and sort of stalked Jay-Z to make his dreams come true.
While some rappers seem to come off as hard-as-steel untouchable, Cole allows himself to be vulnerable because he believes it’s his responsibility to create music that’s enlightening and insightful.
One of his most revering projects to date, 2014 Forest Hills Drive further, reveals that. Forest Hills, which went double platinum, made him the only rapper within the last 25 years to hit platinum status without a guest feature on the album. Can you guess who is the last rapper to go platinum without guest features? Vanilla Ice. What's funny is that he barely did promo nor included a radio single for the album. He boldly let his music speak for itself.
He said in aninterviewwith radio host, Angie Martinez :
“[Music] is the most powerful thing… I could say one thing and, and If I’m speaking my mind and saying how I truly feel, I might say one thing that connects the dots for somebody. That might have been the right connection that was needed to do something to change the world. By me not speaking, I am not offering anything to the world. I am really being selfish in a sense.”
Interestingly enough, this sense of responsibility spills into his personal life as well. Cole makes it a priority to give back to fans and his hometown. Cole launched Dreamville Foundation, a non-profit organization that provides underprivileged youth from his hometown, Fayetteville, North Carolina with resources to be successful in school. The group also hosts field trips to popular destinations in the area. His hope is to help usher their dreams and goals.
In an interview with Complex he said, “I don’t want to inspire kids to rap. I want to let them know that anything they want to do is possible. I came from here and did some shit that was impossible, so if you want to be an astronaut, lawyer, doctor, writer, journalist, or whatever, I want to inspire you to do that.”
He is also giving back to his community in a unique way. He purchased his childhood home, 2014 Forest Hills Drive and rents it out to a low-income family every two years. He charges the residents “little to no rent” with hopes that they will get back on their feet. This effort inspired him because he and his brother were raised by their single mother who, before moving to 2014 Forest Hills Drive, lived in a trailer home on a meager income for many years.
He wants families to be as captivated by the home as much as he was growing up. Cole said he purchased the home because “the love that’s in this house amongst my family, my brother, my mother, the people that really love you, that forever authentic love is in places like this so that’s what buying this house represented for me. It was validation; it was vindication for them foreclosing this home on my mom It just a symbol to know what is important. You can't run from home.”
In the first verse of “Apparently” he touches on the foreclosure:
“…Think back to Forest Hills, no perfect home/But the only thing like home I've ever known/Until they snatched it from my mama/And foreclosed her on the loan/I'm so sorry that I left you there to deal with that alone/I was up in New York City chasing panties, getting dome/Had no clue what you was going through/How could you be so strong?”
If you think that's enough to keep his plate full, you are wrong. He is also getting his Barry Gordy on and partnered with Interscope to launch Dreamville Records, currently releasing projects for Queens, New York rapper, Bas, Los Angeles rapper, Cozz, Hyde Park, Chicago Rapper, Omen, and Washington, D.C. singer, Ari, who's music have rave reviews.
“I feel Like I can do whatever I feel [musically]. If this is how I feel ten years from now and I am still just as passionate, this is what I am going to be talking about. I am just literally telling you how I feel. If I feel differently, I am going to talk about that…. I am always going to tell you where I am at.” [Source]
With commercial success, a record label, non-profit, and endorsements with companies like Sprite and Bally, Cole is blazing a path of his own. Nice guys do win.
Check out his documentary and a couple tracks from his now platinum album 4 Your Eyez Only, "False Prophets" and "Everybody Dies".