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This is the story of J Cole's humble beginnings, his hard work and his rise to the top, all whilst remaining the realist rapper in the game.
The house he grew up in is where it all began for him, and what he names as his start in music; "Having my own room allowed me turn into who I am. I enjoy privacy, I enjoy being by myself. That came from having my own room. Having my own room allowed me to shape myself" he said. That very home is now the name of his latest studio album, proving its significance in Cole's life.
The rapper is an ace at story-telling through rap, and it's no wonder why - he was inspired by the best. "I don't know if I'm on his radar yet, but I used to hang Eminem raps on my wall," Cole revealed in an interview with DJ Whoo Kid in 2010. "It was interesting to me because I knew you had to be smart to rap like that."
All of a sudden Cole realised he had tons of amazing rhymes and no beats to team them with. Realising he needed to master the art of producing too, his mother bought him an 808 beat machine so he could make music himself. "t was mad expensive, like $1600, $1700, so she put it on a layaway plan" Cole remembers. After that everything changed. Everyday I spent on that beat machine. I became immersed. Made my first song with that beat machine when I was 15."
When it was time to choose a university Cole opted for St. John's University in New York as he thought he had a better chance getting a record deal in the big apple. He studied Communication.
He spent three hours outside of Jay Z's 'Roc the Mic' studio hoping to hand the man that would eventually become his mentor a track, but Jay Z didn't notice him.
And even though it was well received, it didn't bring him a deal. But did Cole give up? Of course not.
Before it was released Jay Z heard the track 'Lights Please' and that's when things began to really kick off.
J Cole recalled what happened in a 2009 Complex interview: "It's a three hour meeting and we only played 5 songs, so the rest of the time, we're talking and building, you know, talking about Obama and shit. Then three weeks later I got the confirmation text that said he wanted to do the deal. And we just went from there." Picture: Getty
"I was like, Damn, I'm taller than Jay-Z." The man met Jay Z and that was his first thought? You know he's real.
"I'm not addicted to some idea of stardom, I don't give a f**k about that. It's more a respect factor, I'd rather be known as the best, but not just the best to hip-hop fans, I want the world to know... I just want people to know the name and appreciate the music. That's all it was ever about. There were never fantasies about money or ballin' out of control."
The two toured together between 5th - 21st January 2011 on the Light Dreams and Nightmares UK Tour.
The album went to number one on the US Billboard 200 chart and was a success in the UK, Australia, Canada, and other countries across the globe.
When he found out 'Yeezus' was being released one week before 'Born Sinner,' he moved 'Born Sinner' back a week to compete with Kanye directly. "This is art, and I can't compete against the Kanye West celebrity and the status that he's earned just from being a genius," Cole added. "But I can put my name in the hat and tell you that I think my album is great and you be the judge and you decide."
Although 'Yeezus' beat 'Born Sinner' in its first week sales, Cole was right to go head to head with Kanye because he eventually overtook him - and when he did, he didn't even gloat. "I only get brief moments to appreciate things," he told Noisey. "I might get a two minute thought of like, ‘Wow, you really did sell more than Kanye’... Then I’m back to focusing on what’s next."
On the tour, fans pay merely $1 entry to the concert. Cole sees it as payback so all fans, no matter how much money they have, can still see him perform. That's real. Picture: Instagram/locsmademekinky
During a concert at Madison Square Garden last year, Jay Z gave Cole the biggest compliment ever by giving him his original roc-a-fella chain. Jay told Cole on stage; "that on your neck is my original Roc chain, and it's yours". "Any day now he could call back and ask for it!" Cole joked with Manny Norte in an interview on Capital XTRA the following week. . Picture: Getty
The title of Cole's third studio album is the address of the home he grew up in with his mother and brother in Fayetteville, North Carolina. It's the same place Cole wrote his first rhymes and learnt to produce and so the album signifies how far he has come and touches on his journey to becoming a rap star.
Proof that J Cole is the realest rapper ever - he's famous, successful and rich and it was time to buy his first home. But he didn't go for a penthouse in New York or a mansion in LA, instead he bought back 2014 Forest Hills Drive, his family home that was foreclosed. Cole plans to let families in need stay there, charging very cheap rent, in order to help them find their feet.
J Cole is sending a message - he does things his way (and that's fine with us!) Picture: Twitter