In more ways than one, J. Cole has been quite the heroic hip hop figure and an admirable presence in an industry that has become famous for being superficial, demeaning to women and an overall negative influence on Black youth.
While others draw contempt from elders, the North Carolina-raised artist has emerged as an inspiring rapper that many Black youth could look up to.
“My goal is to have that be a haven for families,” he said during a nearly 2-hour long interview on the Combat Jack Show podcast. “Every two years a new family will come in, they live rent-free.”
Cole, whose real name is Jermaine Lamarr Cole, said the idea came from his own experiences as a child living in poverty.
“The neighborhood we lived in was f****d up,” he said. “The reason why it had such a big effect on me is that I was coming from somewhere else. I was coming from a military base.”
When his parents were still together, Cole lived on a military base. But when his parents separated his mother moved him and his brother to a trailer park on the outskirts of Fayetteville, N.C.
Cole said he immediately knew the “energy was not right” in that neighborhood.
Before long, however, his mom moved the two boys into the Forest Hills Drive home that graces the cover of Cole’s latest LP.
As he mentions in “Apparently,” one of the songs on the 2014 Forest Hills Drive album, the house was eventually foreclosed on but he bought the home back years later.
That entire story behind the home is fueling the project to open the doors up to single mothers.
“The idea is that it’s a single mother with multiple kids and she’s coming from a place where all her kids is sharing a room,” he added. “I want her to feel how I felt when we got to the house.”
This isn’t the first time the hip hop star decided to do something meaningful with his childhood home.
Back in November, before he released the album, he invited a group of die-hard fans to the home to get an exclusive listen to the new album.
Even outside of his own childhood neighborhood, Cole is always reaching out to make a difference now that hip hop has given him the platform to do so.
He garnered a lot of media attention when he secretly made his way to Ferguson, Missouri, following the death of unarmed teen Michael Brown.
Brown was fatally shot by police officer Darren Wilson and Cole said that he couldn’t just sit back as police brutality continued to plague the Black community all across the nation.
He recalled watching live shots of Ferguson at home and thinking, “Yo, I can be there right now.”
He made his way to Ferguson without saying a word to media, but when Ferguson residents posted pictures of the rapper to social media the word spread like wildfire.
He later released a song in honor of the slain teen titled “Be Free.”
His track “Fire Squad” takes aim at culture appropriation, especially in hip hop.
“Be Free” sheds light on the harsh reality that Black people are still not truly “free” in a so-called post-racial America.
“A Tale of 2 Citiez” discusses how thoughts of riches and monetary gain truly serve as the root of many evils taking place in low-income neighborhoods.
He then balances the message out with “Love Yours,” which served as an honest reminder of the fact that images of wealth and perceptions of other people’s lives are often misleading. The song also encourages listeners to find joy in their own lives as opposed to finding joy in money or superficial things.
As Cole presses on to deliver hip hop with a positive message and backs up every lyric through his own actions, he is prepared to take on the responsibility of serving as a “voice” for his generation.
“I feel like I’m the most equipped right now in this position,” he said. “And if people need me to be that, to be the voice, I’ll do my best.”