One of the most endearing aspects of J. Cole’s 2014 Forest Hills Drive release was the rapper’s willingness to both literally and figuratively invite fans into his childhood home. Now, Cole is apparently taking it a step further and recently announced plans to use the house as a rent-free haven for single mothers with multiple children.
Speaking with the Combat Jack show for a lengthy breakdown of his new music, childhood, and rise to success, Cole explained his experience moving from military housing to a trailer park to the single family home that graces his latest album cover. Explaining his excitement as a kid to move into the now-iconic address, Cole said he wants to give other kids that same opportunity.
“In the South, especially in North Carolina, it’s like this,” he said of his family moving to a trailer park when he was 4. “I can’t speak for Atlanta, I’m not from there. But North Carolina is like this. That was my first glimpse of the hood. This is not Eminem, 8 Mile. Shit was fucked up. No disrespect to people that’s still in the trailers and shit but that’s what it is. It’s very affordable housing. Very affordable. The neighborhood we lived in was fucked up. I was a kid. 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. My father was in the army and my mother was too, she got out when she had me. Before I was 1 we moved back [from Germany] to Fayetteville, Fort Bragg.
My parents separated before I was even conscious. After we moved back they were separated. When they got divorced we had to move out of the military quarters ’cause you can only live there if you’re married. That’s like real nice housing, it ain’t no mansion but it’s safe. Everybody got jobs, everybody got benefits ’cause they’re all in the Army. When I’m four years old we have to move; it’s me, my brother, and my mother and we moved to Spring Lake, a little outskirt area of Fayetteville. We moved to the trailer park in Spring Lake. It was my first taste of like, ‘Oh, shit. This is nothing like where we came from.’ I knew the energy was not right. I knew my mother was the only white lady in the neighborhood and there was no man in the house.”
Detailing the family dynamics that allowed Cole, his brother, and mother to move to Forest Hills Drive, the N.C. emcee opened up about hearing the news his mother had lost the house and his decision years later to buy it back himself. While he says he doesn’t live there himself, Cole broke down his ambition to flip the property into something more.
“Nah, I don’t really live there,” he said. “What we gon’ do, we still working it out right now, obviously it’s a detailed, fragile situation I don’t wanna play with. My goal is to have that be a haven for families. So every two years a new family will come in, they live rent-free. 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. She might have two, three kids, they’re 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.”
Still, Cole joked about the unwanted attention the property has gotten since the album release.
“By the way, tell people to stop going to my house and sitting on my roof taking pictures,” he said. “And they stealing the fucking street sign.”
Elsewhere in the conversation, Cole spoke more generally about life and his current success.
“When I was at my brokest and before the deal when we was trying to get on, I was so happy,” he said. “Even though I was living in the future I was living so hopeful in the future. I had faith. It was hope and faith. I was appreciating the journey because I was sure of what was to come. Somewhere along the line, in the midst of all the pressure, the attachments to expectations [came]. Like, ‘No, I want it go like this. Oh no.’ That led to frustration. What if? What if I ain’t really what they [saying].”
“Appreciation is everything,” he also said. “Life could be both beautiful or ugly depending on how you look at it. It could be both hard and blessed. Heaven or hell. It’s all within us. The devil is in us. God is in us. All of these things are within us. It’s just how we choose to view it, it’s the decisions we make, how we decided to view it.”