In an era where social media and other forms of connectivity reveal a new edge to the fan-celebrity dynamic, a musician’s relationship to their fans has become more important than ever. Hip-hop in particular has a sense of community outreach encoded into its very DNA, and J. Cole has taken it to the next level over the past year.
When 2014 Forest Hills Drive dropped back in December, and quickly became one of the best-selling hip-hop albums of 2014, he bypassed the usual press appearances and opted to chill with fans in movie theaters, or visit them based on a simple Twitter shout.
Need more proof J. Cole’s really down for his fans? Check out eight more times he proved himself as one of hip-hop’s most genuinely stand-up figures.
He lets single mothers stay in his house free of charge.
The album 2014 Forest Hills Drive is named after Cole’s childhood home, that he recently bought back. Earlier this year, Cole revealed to Combat Jack that he wants to turn the house into “a haven for single families.” He elaborated on the concept: “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.”
His “Dollar And A Dream” concert tickets actually cost a dollar.
Cole has toured around the world and graced almost every major stage you can possibly think of, but he still takes the time to play smaller, more intimate shows. He’s embarked on two “Dollar And A Dream” tours where he plays smaller venues, and only charges fans $1 for entry. These shows are first come, first served, and are announced the day of, so naturally they sell out very quickly. He even brings out special guests like Drake and Jay Z to join him onstage. Talk about the value of a dollar.
He treated 50 lucky fans to a screening of Chris Rock’s Top Five.
Cole rented out an entire movie theater in Charlotte, N.C. to screen Chris Rock’s Top Five. Fifty lucky fans in the area were treated to the movie. The price of admission? A copy of 2014 Forest Hills Drive.
He hosted listening parties for his latest album at the homes of lucky fans.
Some fans were even lucky enough to have Cole come to their homes and play the album for them front to back.
He showed face in Ferguson.
Cole was one of a handful of rappers to actually show face and march in Ferguson, Mo. during the brunt of the Mike Brown protests. He made his concerns about the sensationalism coming from the press very clear in the Complex interview above. Talib Kweli, St. Louis natives Nelly and Tef Poe, Killer Mike, Diddy and Fabolous also made their way to Ferguson.
He uses Dreamville Weekend to inspire young people.
The Dreamville Weekend is an annual event hosted by Cole through his Dreamville Foundation that fosters positive growth and movement in young people in and around his hometown of Fayetteville, N.C. Last year’s weekend included book discussions, a dinner honoring hard-working members of the community, and a screening and discussion of the film Fruitvale Station.
He embarked on the “F-ck Money Spread Love” tour across the East Coast.
Over the course of four days in December 2014, Cole and his team embarked on a bus tour from New York City down to Houston with the sole intent of meeting and hanging out with fans. He would buy fans lunch, listen to D’Angelo’s new album Black Messiah, play pick-up football, and sign albums for anyone lucky enough to catch him in their area.
The first part of the “Forest Hills Drive Tour” pays dues to neglected cities.
Cole’s latest tour is taking him all throughout the U.S. and Europe, but he’s not just hitting the major cities. He’s dedicated the first “act” of his tour to “all the cities that never get no love,” including New Orleans, Eugene, Ore., Springfield, Mo., Wichita, Kan., and Boise, Idaho, among others.
Dylan “CineMasai” Green is a movie geek, hip-hop aficionado, and pita chip enthusiast. Find him on Twitter.