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J. Cole is one of hip-hop’s biggest stars because he has maintained a very genuine approach to his music, business, and fame. In hip-hop where opulence and arrogance dominates, he stays true to his humble beginnings, which has helped him cultivate a huge following  of passionate fans who can not only recite every single lyric, but also relate to his personal stories. J. Cole’s recent album 2014 Forest Hills Drive takes listeners back to upbringing in Fayetteville, North Carolina through his move to New York City in pursuit of his musical dreams. The critically acclaimed album is the first rap record in 25 years to go platinum without featured guests and has been nominated for Best Rap Album at this years’s Grammy awards.

In 2014, J. Cole announced unexpectedly on Twitter that he was dropping 2014 Forest Hills Drive only three weeks before its intended release date, which created mass hysteria amongst fans. Exactly at the same time, he started filming a documentary that captures the painstaking journey. The four episode series called Road to Homecoming was shown on HBO and online, and gave viewers an exclusive behind the scenes look in the creation of  2014 Forest Hills Drive and the accompanying tour. After watching Road to Homecoming, you develop a great sense of appreciation for J. Cole. He’s extremely passionate about his craft, putting immense thought and work behind his music. From the songs to the shows, every aspect of J. Cole’s music is meant to reflect who he is as an artist and individual. He’s just a normal guy with a unique talent to create music that deeply resonates with his fans.

J. Cole

The documentary series culminated in J. Cole’s Forest Hills Drive: Homecoming concert in Fayetteville, which premiered on HBO on January 9th. In addition to performance footage from the concert, Homecoming presents reflections from J.Cole on his hometown, while highlighting  Fayetteville and its residents. It’s a low key and humble city going through some issues, but Fayetteville proudly supports its native son. In Homecoming, J. Cole said that he had to leave his home to make it big, but home always played a pivotal role in his music. Ultimately, where we’re from greatly influences who we are as individuals, so we should never forget what raised us.

Forest Hills Drive: Homecoming features guest appearances from Drake and Jay-Z, and it’s heartwarming to see how attendees reacted to having hip-hop’s biggest names in their city. Much respect to J. Cole for putting on for this hometown. That’s why he’s the star he is today. You can watch the documentary below. The four  Road to Homecoming episodes are no longer available online, but the entire documentary will eventually be released on DVD.

UPDATE (1/12):  The uploaded Forest Hills Drive: Homecoming that was floating around the internet, is no longer up. The “authorities” took it down because technically, it should available to only HBO subscribers.

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Rex Pham

Originally from the Bay Area, who then moved to Los Angeles, then out to New York City. NYU Stern MBA c/o 2014. Inspired by the grind of NYC to create something that has value. Lover of all things digital, culture, and brand strategy.

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