ATLANTA — Standing less than 5 feet tall, it’s easy to overlook “Corey J.” in a crowded room. Until he opens his mouth.
“There are two types of people in this world,” says 10-year-old Corey Jackson. “There are dreamers. And there are dream chasers. I’m chasing my dreams!”
He may only be 10, but rapper Corey J., aka Lil C Note, is fast gaining traction in the Atlanta hip-hop scene.
In the last year, the fifth-grader — a self-proclaimed “positive hip-hop” recording artist — received endorsements from some of the biggest names in the rap industry, including Cash Money Records CEO Bryan “Birdman” Williams and Atlanta trap star rapper Young Thug.
The early success isn’t a surprise for the Jackson, Mississippi, native. He’s been rapping since before he even knew how to ride a bike.
“I made my first song ‘Crayons’ at 6 years old,” he says with a big smile.
But his love for the art came earlier.
“At first my dad was doing it. He took me to the studio a few times, and I said, I think I want to do that, it looks pretty cool. But my first song, I was only 4 and it was hard for me to stay on beat. It took me a couple of years to get the hang of it.”
Home base: Atlanta
Jackson lives in Mississippi, but like a lot of artists in the Southeast, he calls Atlanta his second home: it’s where hip hop is flourishing.
Since early 2012, Jackson has spent most of his life traveling across the country with his dad, Cornell Jackson, to promote his music.
In the last four years, he’s sold more than 250,000 CDs, according to his family and Patchwerk Recording Studios in Atlanta, which acts as a promoter for the young rapper.
“That’s 250,000 … and counting,” Jackson says with a smirk.
Corey J.’s father calls his son “amazing.”
“What he’s doing is amazing. As far as we know, he’s the only kid in music to be out here independently selling tens of thousands of CDs. It makes me proud to be his father. I’m just glad to be a part of it,” Cornell Jackson says.
“I know I’ve had an influence on him to get into rapping, but the rest is all him. He’s the one out here putting in the work. He’s the one and only Hustle Kid!” he adds, laughing.
‘Anything is possible’
Lil C Note, who is home-schooled, says he’s now making “more than six figures” a year. When asked, he wouldn’t give an exact amount of his net worth, but says it was enough to buy his family a new home.
“Ya see, when I was growing up on Cromwell Street, in the old house, it wasn’t as good as now. I’m going tell you like this, the water wasn’t always hot,” he says. “But I had confidence that it would get better. I had people who believe in me.”
His album sales are a testament to his hustle, he says. And his approach is as dynamic as his megawatt smile.
“I just love to show the other kids that anything is possible, anything is possible at any age,” he says. “I just want to be a role model. That’s one of the main reasons why I’m a recording artist.”
His passion to uplift his community took on an even deeper meaning after the election of Donald Trump as president of the United States, he says.
“I just saw people in my community, in the black community, get really down about the election. I saw a lot of faces like this,” he says, frowning. “I wanted to do something about it. People should be walking around like this,” he says, smiling.
In December, the young rapper raised $10,000 for a toy drive to give back to local elementary schools in his impoverished Jackson neighborhood.
“I went to preach my message of positive hip-hop,” he says about his giveaway after the presidential election. “I wanted to uplift people who were down about Trump becoming president. I wanted to show them that their lives can still be good, even if it’s not the result they wanted. I’m going to keep on what I have to do.”
Even at his young age, he already has people who look up to him.
For him, it’s all part of the plan.
“God has a plan for me, so I’m going to keep on following my path,” he says.
“The whole journey, this whole path, everything has been a highlight. This is not surreal, this is real. I worked hard for this. I love this. It’s awesome!”