Let me start here: I love J. Cole.
This is a big thing for me to say about a current Hip Hop artist. I’m a child of Hip Hop, see, and so I’m always going to have a special place in my heart for the music and culture, but my admiration for rap shrivels like natural hair in a super-hot sauna whenever I’m forced to singe my ears with the mess passing/posing as hip hop these days.
I mean, Iggy Azalea and that fake, frontin’ southern drawl?
Young Thug and those completely incomprehensible lyrics?
Really, who cares about the “Club Going Up On a Tuesday?” when you’re grown and got babies and a legit job?
Really, when your top five is Rakim, Jay-Z, Biggie, Nas and the collective known as The Native Tongues, this modern day madness sounds like fingernails on a chalkboard. Someone as talented as J. Cole can get lost in translation.
It was my 15-year-old girlpie who insisted I give J. Cole a try. I admit I wasn’t really paying her much mind at first; my daughter does the Nay Nay and thinks Young Thugs “Lifestyle” is genius, so, her taste is, well, questionable at best. Knowing I have trust issues when it comes to her musical selections, Mari force-fed J. Cole’s latest album, “2014 Forest Hills Drive,” onto my iPod, shoved it onto the Bose speaker in my kitchen, pressed play and made me listen while I was making a big pot of chicken, shrimp and andouille gumbo.
What I heard was nothing short of… beautiful. Genius. I’m not going to give a review; there are enough music critics who’ve done a stellar job of dissecting J. Cole’s artistry, including this one in The Atlantic. But I will say that after the album was through and I finished thanking Mari for making me listen, I went looking for more, and my brother, Troy, sent me this—J. Cole’s performance on Letterman. This piece is the rapper’s tribute to Ferguson. Press play and be blown away.
Now comes news that J. Cole, who, in his album lyrics, highlights a time when his mother lost their home, is poised to help single mothers and their children feel like somebody gives a damn about them. His plan: to let single moms take turns living with their families—free of charge—in the childhood home his mom lost and that he eventually repurchased.
In a recent interview with The Combat Jack Show, J. Cole said his goal is to make 2014 Forest Hill, the Fayetteville, N.C., addy after which his album is named, “a haven for families.”
“So every two years, a new family will come in. They’ll live rent-free,” Cole said. “The idea is that it’s a single mother with multiple kids, and she’s coming from a place where all her kids [are] sharing a room. She gets to come here rent-free. I want her kids to feel how I felt when we got to the house.”
I mean, who is this guy and why do I adore him so? For many reasons, be sure. Shout out to Mari for hipping me to J. Cole, and big up to J. Cole for having a heart. He’s got a fan in me, for sure, and gives me hope that, while one of my favorite music genres may well be on life-support, a heart still beats in Hip Hop.
Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.