Before North Carolina emcee J. Cole signed with the Jay Z-led Roc Nation in 2009, the rapper says he spent the time prior to his signing in a home in Jamaica, Queens with a handful of friends from school. During that time, the rapper says he struggled to pay rent, but was fortunate enough to have a landlord who was supportive of his dreams to become a rap star.
“The landlord himself, Muhammad, he’s just a great guy. So, I always try to shout him out,” said Cole. “My landlord from the first apartment I ever got, kicked us out. I was looking and looking and looking and this was the only place I found with enough bedrooms for me and my homeboys from school. It wasn’t the nicest, but it was affordable. I took the worse room in the house because I knew everybody didn’t want to come over there. I was just like ‘Yo, what we gon’ do? We gotta go somewhere. I’m from North Carolina. I ain’t got nowhere to go. I need a spot. I’m getting this spot.’ So, that’s how we ended up here… My landlord Muhammad he like really believed in me. So, when my rent kept piling, he never tripped. He just let me kinda just stick around. So, when I finally got the deal, after all them years, of course I paid him back in full.”
Cole continued to speak on his experience living in Queens during his Life & Rhymes segment with MTV, as he reminisced on waking up in Muhammad’s home each day, visualizing his future success in rap.
“Waking up in this every day is like so far from where I wanted to be,” said the Southern lyricist. “But this is the room where it started feeling real. You know what I mean? Where I started really believing and visualizing it. I used to literally wake up and tell myself like ‘Yo, today I want to write a song that millions of people are gonna sing. And millions of people gonna love.' I set that intention.”
Prior to detailing his time spent in New York City’s biggest borough, Cole commented on overcoming the odds and what his idea of happiness is.
“I definitely consider myself an underdog,” said Cole “I always was in an underdog position. Just being from Fayetteville, North Carolina. Coming to New York City, the odds was against me. I got a long way to go and I know that, but I’m not gonna stop until they give me my props. Ultimately, happiness is the most important thing. And the pure happiness I think is finding happiness with yourself, how you are."
With the release of his sophomore album, Born Sinner, now months behind him, Cole is currently focused on his What Dreams May Come tour. The tour also features D.C. rapper Wale and is scheduled to make stops in Las Vegas, San Francisco, and Seattle this month.
In addition to touring, Cole will also reportedly play a hand in the creation of TLC’s upcoming album.
“I got some production on the album that they doing," said Cole during an interview with Billboard.com last month. "What we really planning on doing is to really go in and lock in. Cause as a producer I know what I can give them. I know what I can bring them. And I know what they need. They don’t need me, but I’ll give them my best material.”