Dreamville + HBO x J. Cole 2014 Forest Hills Drive: Homecoming

Throughout the entire J.Cole 2014 Forest Hills Drive Homecoming HBO special, director Scott Lazer, goes back and forth between shots of the show and Cole driving around his hometown of Fayetteville, NC reminiscing about growing up in the town and his life today. These scene cuts also included appearances by some local business owners, citizens, and family members — which kind of doubled as a background to the inspiration behind each song that was shared of his performance. There were a couple that really stood out for me; one being a scene where he’s on the court with a Dreamville team member and a childhood friend whom was just released from being in jail for 10 years.

I looked around the city… I saw  that everybody I had ever known was right here in the same spot. And I told myself, ‘I had to get the fuck outta here.’

Cole discusses how he used to feel like Fayetteville was a prison and he needed to get out of there in order to chase his dreams… But in reality, it wasn’t Fayetteville he was running from… It was the mindset he had at the time — what he considers to be “a small town mindset.” Cole was trying to express to those from Fayetteville and other similar towns, that it’s not the town that feels like a prison, but it’s their mind that’s making them see it that way… And once you refresh your perspective, great things will follow no matter where you are.

“Ever since he made it so far and got so famous, he just gave us a pride about Fayetteville and made us proud to be from here.” — a Fayetteville citizen

Probably one of the most heart-warming scenes from J. Cole’s Homecoming was the one of his mom amidst Apparently being performed. If you follow Cole and have listened to 2014 Forest Hills Drive, you know he loves his mama and you also know he’s very private and doesn’t share intimate moments (let alone people so close to him) with the rest of the world… So this was truly a special moment.

In the documentary, Kay Cole talks about how she knew her son would be who he is today all his life… Then she reflects on how it’s such an amazing experience to be telling someone their entire life how great they’re going to be and witness them finally get there.

I made the joke that I won’t have to keep a journal or pictures to show my grandkids about their dad playing at The Crown because people will still be talking about it. – Kay Cole

For the rest of the documentary, he performs the rest of the songs from his album and brings out none other than his mentor and one of the greatest, Jay Z along with one Drake.

Home Game (Picture stolen from @Demoore44)

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I’ve been to one of the shows of the tour and it was an amazing experience. Cole provides the audience such inspiration and motivation that once you leave, you feel like you can accomplish anything you put your mind to. This Homecoming show meant so much more than any other part of the tour. For one, Cole mentions countless times that if he ever brought a show to Fayetteville it would be at the Crown and he would only perform if he knew he could sell out the entire 10,000-seat Coliseum. He met his goal and surpassed it with flying colors by providing a documentary and highlighting the hometown he loves in such a positive light.

The goal of this documentary was to inspire. Inspire people coming from similar situations to follow their dreams, do great things, and cause more inspiration for their hometown — wherever that may be. Let’s not forget some of the “keys to success” that were embodied throughout the Homecoming documentary:

  1. Get rid of the small town mindsets: you can really accomplish anything you want, wherever you are. Not everyone has to physically shift to another location in order to see their dreams come to fruition; try it at home, you may be the change your hometown needs to enhance and prosper.
  2. Love Yourz: learn to appreciate who you are, who you have in your life and what you have. In the beginning of Homecoming, Cole talked about how setting dreams on cars, girls, money, etc. leaves you depressed. Put more emphasis on the things that really matter and you’ll be set for life. Forget your ego, live in the moment… F*ck money, spread love (F.$.S.♥.)
  3. Always remain positive: We all experienced a glimpse into how positive Cole is as a person… His mom even hints at it in her scene of the documentary. But in a world full of doubters and negativity (especially in choosing the road less traveled), the key is to always remain positive and find light in all situations, no matter how dark they may seem; 2014 Forest Hills Drive is the perfect example of that.

From whatever moment it was that Jermaine Cole started working on that first song or beat from 2014 Forest Hills Drive… He changed his career, the future of his label and the game of hip-hop for the better. He’s putting out quality music; real music that’s 100% authentic, 100% honest, 100% dope with no promotion or singles and still having commercial success and producing quality songs such as Wet Dreamz, G.O.M.D., and No Role Modelz. With the success and recognition Cole is gaining from this album (the first hip-hop album in 25 years to go platinum with no features), the tour, and this documentary (he’s the first Hip Hop artist to have his own special on HBO), he is setting the bar that much higher for his peers and all aspiring artists. As for his team, it’s providing a gateway for his label and all of its constituents. Amidst all this buzz, the label has and is continuing to drop major releases with the Return of the Dreamers 2 with accompanying bar crawl in New York, Omen’s first studio album and solo tour for Elephant Eyes, Cozz’s mixtape Nothin’ Personal, Bas’s anticipated Too High To Riot album, and the Black Friday tracks from Kendrick and Cole which sparked conversation of a collaboration project.

Towards the end of the documentary, I can’t help but to reflect on the closing image of Cole on the rooftop as he performs Love Yourz…. Chilling in a plain black t-shirt, black sweat shorts, sneakers, and untamed hair; we just see him as one of us. And that’s what makes him such a successful artist. He’s true to himself and he’s remarkably talented at connecting with us simultaneously. He’s developed a commercially successful career for himself without nearly an ounce of commercialism in his creative process. He’s living proof that we don’t have to stick to the status quo of what society tells us is going to generate success. Proof that you can have money and still be happy. An example of someone who’s built a creative career, followed his dreams, remained true and still made bank. 

So, the next time you’re feeling like your dreams are too big for you or things are just getting too hard, try to think more about all that you have the potential to be if you keep going and less of what you aren’t right now.

Don’t be sleeping on your level, cuz there’s beauty in the struggle, nigga. – Love Yourz, 2014 Forest Hills Drive

Ashley Pickens

About Ashley Pickens

20. life is a feeling process...

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