Roc Nation's very own wunderkind J. Cole made a stop at New York City's Irving Plaza yesterday as a part of his Dollar and a Dream Tour. True to the tour's name, the cost of entrance to one of Cole's limited and intimate shows is $1. The rapper took to his Twitter around 2pm yesterday to announce the time and venue details:
NYC Dollar and a Dream. Tonight. Irving Plaza. 7 o'clock doors. Be safe
— J. Cole (@JColeNC) June 19, 2013
Within moments, the area around Union Square was flooded by eager fans - apparently, the warm welcome from NYC (where the 28-year-old MC has lived since attending college at St. John's University) was more than the rapper had anticipated.
Heard its Madness at the venue. I will add a second show tonight. Please be EASY. NYC
— J. Cole (@JColeNC) June 19, 2013
Despite the fact that I knew Cole's tour was stopping in New York City, I had only a vague concept of the madness made possible by a $1 concert. Rest assured, it was absolute insanity. Upon arriving at Irving Plaza at 3:58pm, just a little under two hours after he had announced the location, it was nearly impossible to see where the line began or ended. After about an hour of standing in the ominous and inescapable heat, the line began to slowly move around the block.
Slow-paced walking turned into full-speed sprinting as concert-hungry fans clambered over one another to be given wristbands that would guarantee entrance. The second show was set to start at 10pm and despite the lengthy amount of time that fellow Zumic staffer Nick and I had spent standing in the rowdy and unforgiving line, it was clear that we were lucky to have received wristbands at all. Despite Cole adding a second show, we saw a line of between 300 and 400 people get turned away from the venue altogether.
After a short Starbucks rendezvous, we journeyed back to Irving Plaza's doors, still 3 hours shy of the show. Along with other 10pm concert attendees, we made several thwarted attempts at forming a cohesive line. Irving Plaza's security team was sending very mixed messages and absolutely everyone in attendance was befuddled, confused and frustrated. The lack of personal space due to the sheer mass of people led to a certain breed of solidarity, and for the next 4 hours we indulged mainly in listening to music on small speakers and having conversations about how much our feet hurt.
Finally at 11pm, we made our way into the venue and after about an hour-long DJ set, J. Cole took the stage. Joined by a fantastic live band and his DJ, J. Cole made it clear that those who waited in line all day would get what they deserved - which, in this case, was a set composed almost entirely of songs that only real, dedicated J. Cole fans would know.
He challenged audience members to prove themselves, and they certainly did: I'm not exaggerating when I say that everyone in the audience knew every word to every song he played. I'm also not exaggerating when I say that grown men were screaming high-pitched, desperate screams for Jermaine.
Cole invited fellow Dreamville rapper and Queens-native Bas to perform their collaborative track, "Lit" which the gracious host claimed to be the "hottest song of the summer" (a pretty cool song, I would have to agree. Check it out at the link provided above).
The hoarse-voiced rapper also took requests throughout nearly the entire concert - the most requested tracks being "Lights Please", "Premeditated Murder" and his "Back To The Topic" Freestyle (all of which Cole obligingly performed). While it was nearly impossible for me to take steady video of the show from the ground floor, someone from Page31TV was on the balcony and able to compile good video from the MC's set:
Cole's band was absolutely fantastic and he commanded the stage effortlessly and with endless charisma - the MC certainly made up 10-fold for any upset caused by the long wait. He was absolutely fantastic to watch.
Despite the magnitude of people there to see the 28-year-old Jermaine, there were a few unexpected guests in attendance that commandeered the Irving Plaza show - most notably was a surprise appearance by Drake for a performance of his verse in Cole's "In The Morning", followed by "Say What's Real" as requested by J. Cole, and an impromptu performance of "Started From The Bottom" that led to more pushing and shoving than I ever thought could be deemed humanly possible. The moments that followed the Toronto MC's swaggering walk onto the stage were the most 'turnt up' I've ever seen an audience get.
Towards the end of the show, I noticed another special guest - the Jay-Z was in attendance in the VIP section of the balcony right above my head. I couldn't help but stare at him for about 3 unwavering, awe-filled minutes (all while I recited the lyrics to every song from Black Album in my head) before redirecting my attention to Cole.
After performing a slew of fantastic old songs, the North Carolina-native did pick a few select tracks from his newly-released Born Sinner to showcase. Cole performed two stunning editions of the album's leading singles: the massive Miguel-assisted "Power Trip" and the uplifting TLC-jam "Crooked Smile".
J. Cole's performance last night, if anything, proved that the MC certainly warranted having his name and album thrown into the conversation with Yeezus on the June 18th release date. Kanye West, he is not - he does not have Kim Kardashian, Kim Kardashian's baby, a shoe line, or the seemingly infinite celebrity of the Chicago MC. However, J. Cole is an intelligent, highly gifted lyricist and extremely talented rap performer - that combined with his fantastic producing skills makes him arguably one of the best hip-hop artists in the game right now.