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Wale gets personal with The Breakfast Club about his lyrical journey. What do you think about why he believes he’s not as big as he should be?

J. Cole on life growing up & the importance of 2014 Forest Hills Drive.


On living in a trailer park:

That was my first glimpse of the hood. This is not Eminem, 8 Mile. Sh-t was f-cked up! No disrespect to people that’s still in the trailers and sh-t but that’s what it is. Its like…it’s very affordable housing. Very affordable housing. The neighborhood we lived in was f-cked up! I was a kid. The reason why it had such a big effect on me is because 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 one, we moved back [from Germany, where he was born] to Fayetteville, Fort Bragg is where we lived.

My parents separated before I was even conscious. They was never together while I was really alive. 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. So when I’m four years old we have to move; it’s me, my brother, and my mother and we moved to Spring Lake, which is like a little outskirt area of Fayetteville. We moved to the trailer park in Spring Lake. It was my first taste of like, ‘Oh, sh-t! This is nothing like where we came from.’ I knew the energy was not right. And I knew that my mother was the only white lady in the neighborhood and there was no man in the house.

Moving into 2014 Forest Hills Drive:

[My step father] and mom got married and their combined incomes allowed us to move to a much better neighborhood than even where we was at. And we moved into Forest Hills Drive which was like a mansion to me compared to where we were coming from. The inside wasn’t as nice but the outside was always a nice sight. Green grass, trees, nice driveways, there’s a carport, we had room in the back for the dogs. We the only black people in the neighborhood. My neighbors was like this 80-year-old white lady, there was a 70-year-old white couple. [The attitude] was we came up! I don’t know at any moment this can be gone but I know we came up. It’s appreciation because I got my own room. Me and my brother was sharing a room before that. It was an amazing feeling being in that place. That was my middle school and high school days was spent in that house.

On losing the house:

But the senior year of high school, right when I was about to graduate, [my step father] tells my mom he got put on assignment to go to Thailand. In the army, sometimes it’s random. So he told her he got signed. […] He tells her he got put on assignment, but in actually, he put himself on assignment to get the f-ck up out of the house. He told her one year, in reality..come to find out later, it was for two years. So basically, he pulled that maneuver to get out the relationship.

[…]

The agreement with him and my mom was that he would make the mortgage payments while he was gone, because when you overseas in the army and you have a family, you get something called “separation pay.” So the army will give you an extra thousand, $1,500 per month because they’re taking you from your family. It’s like, “we’re taking you from your family…here’s extra.” The army will do that for you. So the agreement between him and my mother […] you know parents…two adults…they split the bills up. “You make the mortgage payments, I got this, that and the third.”

He goes away and I go to the college at the end of the summer [2003]. About a month into college, I get a call from my mom and she’s distraught and I can tell she doesn’t want to tell me and doesn’t want to put stress on me cause I’m in college. And she’s like, “Just to let you know, I got a notice in the mail that the mortgage payment hasn’t been made in four months. It’s $3,200 [and] I don’t got that type of money. I can’t make it and I don’t know what to do.” So she just got the news right there that A. the mortgage payments haven’t been made and B. her relationship is over. She got blind-sided like that. […] Ultimately, that’s how that house ended up getting foreclosed a month or two after that. And she just packed up everything and moved out the house and got her own little apartment. And that’s how we ended up back here in 2014, and I bought back the house.

On his plans for the house:

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 a family. 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, like, “Yo! This is a come-up!”

1. “Wesley’s Theory" (Feat. George Clinton & Thundercat)
2. “For Free? (Interlude)“
3. “King Kunta”
4. “Institutionalized" (Feat. Bilal, Anna Wise & Snoop Dogg)
5. “These Walls"
6. “U"
7. “Alright"
8. “For Sale? (Interlude)“
9. “Momma”
10. “Hood Politics"
11. “How Much A Dollar Cost" (Feat. James Fauntleroy & Ronald Isley)
12. “Complexion (A Zulu Love)“ (Feat. Rapsody)
13. “The Blacker The Berry”
14. “You Ain’t Gotta Lie (Momma Said)“
15. “i”
16. “Mortal Man"