My name is Matthew Jonathan Derrick-Huie, most of you probably know me as John River (Or the good looking guy you see running in the mornings) and after telling the first part of this story, I felt it was only right to fill you in on how it ended. I welcome you back and I hope you enjoy, my very best attempt, to define impossible.
When we last left our hero – yes that would be me – I had just accomplished probably the most amazing thing I had ever done in my life, through nothing but self belief, perseverance and what some police officers may describe as, stalking in the first degree. With that being said, 3 months later after some long conversations with a series of people I work with, I decided I would type up and release my story of how I met J. Cole to the world.
After releasing the story on the Monday, I had a big show in Atlanta that weekend called the All 3 Coasts ( A3C) Festival. My DJ, my publicist and I were all going to be staying with my hilarious Uncle James and his wife over the weekend in Atlanta and fly back on the Sunday. When we got to Atlanta, James picked us up and he drove us to the hotel where all the artists from the festival were staying, because I had to do an interview there.
The first person I saw as I walked into the hotel was none other, then the great producer 9th Wonder. We spoke for a while and he told me he was staying at the hotel so that’s when I decided, we were going to stay at the hotel over the weekend. Sorry James. After we checked into our room and hooked up with the other Toronto artists and journalist that were there, we decided we would go see one of the many shows that were going on that night.
Here come the coincidences. We had planned on going to rap battle but oddly the cab driver had one less seat than expected so we went to a different show. We had decided to get food after the show we did go and see, but oddly enough they made a mistake with my order and we had to wait an extra 20 minutes. On our way back to the hotel a group of people asked me to rap for them, which I found weird at the time, but I did it anyway. Now back the hotel at 3am in the morning, my DJ says “I think I forgot something in the lobby, let’s go down and check.” So to the lobby we went.
In between me and you, I still don’t know if I believe in God. Maybe the thought of someone looking over us all and deciding huge moments in life like: the Toronto Raptors drafting Andrea Bargnani or Miley’s new haircut, doesn’t sit well with me. However on this day there was simply no other explanation as to why at 3am in the morning, in a lobby in Atlanta, merely 4 days after I released a story about the President of Dreamville Records, a man bumps into me. That man just so happened be Bas, the only artist signed to J. Cole and none other than the brother of Ibrahim Hamad.
We must have spoken for 30 minutes. He told me what happened the day I came to New York: “My brother came in like, can you believe some kid just came ALL the way from TORONTO to rap for me!?” he recounted. “I said, but yo ma man, was he NICE though?” Ibrahim responded, “Family that brother was NICE!!” and Bas laughed. I laughed longer than I had in a long time, we were both laughing! “It’s good to finally meet you” he said. They were scheduled to be in Toronto in a few days and he told me to stay in touch.
BOOM BABY! Your boy John River – yes that would be me – has everything going for him and amazingly it seems to all be falling from the sky. It was to be meant to be, it’s Sunday morning, my show last night in Atlanta was amazing, the label loves my music, I met Bas two nights before and he doesn’t think I’m a weird stalker from Criminal Minds and actually wants to see me when they get to Toronto on Tuesday and Wednesday! “Cellllleeebratttteee gooooood timmmmmes cmmmmannnn do dodo do it’s a celebrattionnn!” What could possibly go wrong?
What you just read above was my thought process on Sunday morning as we entered the Atlanta airport to fly back to Toronto. We decided to go get some breakfast before our flight and as we sat down I realised one of the females cleaning the tables in the restaurant kept looking over at our table. Another waitress kept passing our table, she must have passed 4 times in 1 minute and something just didn’t feel right. We finished eating and moved to the exit and I remember saying to my publicist “Do you hear those waitresses whispering at our table?” We thought nothing of it and walked to customs.
30 seconds later my publicist yelled out “Where is my purse?” and we looked at each other and ran back to that restaurant as soon as we could – the waitresses were nowhere to be found. The manager inexplicably said they had both gone on break in the 30 seconds since we had left and the security cameras attached to the walls would take 7 days to be checked. The problem was my publicist’s passport was in her purse. The airport police department told us to expect to be in Atlanta for at least 3 days. Unbelievably, I was going to miss J.Cole, Ibrahim and Bas in Toronto.
After hours of selective private questioning in the backrooms of the airport and two standby flights, 36 hours later, I was back in Mississauga and the very next day I was downtown at the J. Cole concert at Massey Hall. The show is about to start and as I get inside an usher alerts me that a better seat has opened up if I would like to move. I was about to when Robert Earnshaw, Toronto FC’s leading scorer this season came and sat down beside me so I figured I would just stay put. Looking back at that I think that was a sign, I don’t know from who but I knew that for some reason someone wanted me to sit in that exact seat, more specifically in that row. As I looked down my row, standing at the end in the aisle right beside me, watching the show with a big smile on his face was Ibrahim Hamad. In my aisle.
I am not brave. I feel like after such a motivational story people see me as this unstoppable, extremely driven, fearless individual, which is too hard to live up to. I get scared just like everybody else and when I saw Ibrahim I was planted in my seat just staring for 10 minutes. What would I say? What could I say? Was I the inspirational story or the selfish rapper who invaded his privacy for my own personal gain? I was embarrassed. He probably hates me I thought to myself. Profiting off a story about his personal life, that’s who, I was, that’s who I am, I thought. My phone buzzed, it was a friend who was there and spotted me staring and put everything together. “Go” they said. I went.
I jostled through the row getting a little bit more nervous with each and every step and finally I had arrived, the first re-encounter since the hostile one in Queens, New York and I stuck out my hand “Yo, Ibrahim.” Slowly he turned and he looked at me at first confused, and then I saw recognition across his eyes. He stared at me without saying a word and then broke into a warm smile and gave me the biggest hug ever. “ Ma man, ma man, ma man” he said. “Don’t worry, Bas told me everything, it’s good to see you.” For me that was the single best moment of acceptance I have ever had, all my doubts about my methods and my insecurities about my morals were wiped away with one smile and one hug.
After the show was done I caught up to Bas and he had invited me to come to the after party considering I had just turned 19. I had no shoes to wear to a club and I had absolutely no money to get in, but a girl named Nicole Abia who I had seen around every now and then, heard the story and told me her friend would bring me shoes, she would pay for me to get me into the club and they would drive me back to my house when I was finished. Like holy what? Out of the blue a girl who I’ve seen a maximum of five times, see’s me walking into a restaurant, asks me if I want to sit with her and her friend and then offers to give me money, shoes and transportation and she doesn’t even know my last name.
As we were about to leave I saw a guy in the restaurant who was wearing all Dreamville apparel – he looked at me and pointed but I had no idea who he was but he looked so familiar though! As he got closer I finally put it together: The cousin! When I had gone to NY it was Ibrahim’s cousin from Toronto who saved my butt and pulled for Ibrahim to give me a shot, and now 4 months later on the same day I see Ibrahim, I see him. He smiled as I thanked him for what he did for me, and that’s when I realized how lucky I truly was. He didn’t need anything from me so why did he stick out his neck for me? He never demanded any praise or recognition for the role he played, nor did Nicole. They both taught me a lot in 5 minutes.
I went to the party that night and it was good and well. I had gotten front row tickets to their show the next day and before I left my house on Wednesday I walked into my kitchen. There, sitting on the counter was bottle of alcohol, a bottle of liquor than had been sitting there since June 27th when it had made a trip to the airport. The bottle of Hennessey I had bought (well my mother, but I digress) for J. Cole the very first day I had found out I was going to rap for him, June 25th 2013, had been sitting until the day I felt I would meet him again. I felt that Wednesday would be the day, so in my backpack the bottle went and off to the show I went.
The show was good, amazing actually. Everything went well and all in all I thought I had done a lot in a two day span. When the show was done I was getting ready to head out when I bumped in to the founder of Manifesto who had showed up with a big camera and headed behind security lines. I figured I might as well wait to speak with him so I decided I’d wait around a bit for him to be finished whatever it is he was doing. While I was waiting a couple said “Hey! You’re John River!” and they said they had been supporting my music for a while so I figured why not at least give them the courtesy of a conversation.
Time started passing and it started getting very cold, by now 99% of the concert goers had left the venue but I was still speaking with this couple and that’s when the founder of Manifesto came back out and said “Hey, your boy is coming out soon.” I didn’t really understand what he meant by that until around 5 minutes later, standing with a bottle of Hennessey in my hand amongst around 30 other people, J. Cole came out of his tour bus and started walking towards me. He signed one or two things for a few people and then this happened.
I don’t know the way the world works. I don’t know why that girl paid for me to get into that club. I don’t know why Robert Earnshaw sat beside me. I don’t know why I forgot my age when he asked me how old I was. I don’t know why Ibrahim came over and told me how proud he was of me after Cole went back on his bus. But, one thing I do know is that defining impossible means believing in yourself when nobody else does. It means fighting self doubt and insecurity and every now and then being braver than you thought you could be. I’m not different than any one of you reading this story right now; I am you, just under different circumstances. I’d be lying if I said this was goodbye because my story is far from finished, but it is definitely a see you later. That’s the story of how I met J.Cole. Twice.
Written by John River.