Hip-Hop

Watch Fabolous Reveal His Artist Past on a Tour of a Jean-Michel Basquiat Exhibit: Exclusive

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."

Fabolous Plays Tour Guide at the Brooklyn Museum: Exclusive Photos

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.

Watch Fabolous as he tours the exhibit in this exclusive Billboard video above.

Dorothy Hong
Fabolous photographed at the Brooklyn Museum on July 9, 2015 in Brooklyn, New York.

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“[Basquiat's] composition books, those are the same books I used  for school,” Fabolous says. “And even though he didn’t think of himself as a poet, a lot of rappers write down ideas and verses in the same way he did.”

When it comes to his own work, however, the 37-year-old is adamant about dropping the pen and paper. “I don’t like the idea of pre-meditated music,” he says. “Things like free-styling, the element of surprise -- I think people need to scale back and re-focus on making moments again.”