Before words became the medium that transformed John David Jackson into Fabolous, the Roc Nation artist who has sold more than 4.3 million albums in the U.S. since 2001's Ghetto Fabolous, the rapper's preferred mode of self-expression was charcoal. "Before I was a musician, I drew," he tells Billboard. "The housing projects in Brooklyn weren’t much of a canvas, people didn’t know that I had it in me -- but I actually went to an art and design high school."
It’s just after 10 a.m. and the rapper, who wears a T-shirt emblazoned with the face of artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, peruses the Brooklyn Museum’s “Basquiat: The Unknown Notebooks” exhibit, which opened in April and is on display through Aug. 23. And though the curator notes that people who aren’t familiar with Basquiat's work likely won’t be won over by the 160 pages of poetry fragments and sketches that are showcased, Fabolous instantly takes to them.