J.Cole had a CRWN interview with Elliott Wilson a few months back around the time when he was releasing his 2nd album, Born Sinner. As many know, he bumped up the release date up a week, to compete with Kanye West, and many thought that he lost his marbles. Turns out that he was good enough to eventually outsell him in the process (it took 2 weeks, but he still did). One thing that he said in the interview that stuck around in my cerebrum was that “you have to allow new legends”, to which he proclaimed the likes of peers, Drake & Kendrick Lamar (including himself), as the new legends in Hip Hop (a lot of people would agree or disagree strongly, but here we are). When you make a statement like that, you have to be able to accept the challenges of becoming a legend, and that doesn’t necessarily mean record sales, but also about the impact that you’re to have towards the fans: can you perform? Are you a great personality? Can you last for years on end and make timeless music? That’s what makes an artist’s status legendary. Perhaps one day in about 10 years, we’ll be discussing whether or not J.Cole is considered a legend, but to be honest, he’s thrown his name in the ring for legends in the making. When he announced this tour, I had to make sure that I went (the Dollar and a Dream tour was a nightmare). I had to go for 3 reasons; A: because I’ve been listening to J.Cole since I was about 19 years old; B: I enjoy (still enjoy) Born Sinner, and finally C: I hadn’t been to a real J.Cole concert before (him opening for Jay Z in 2008 for the BP3 Tour doesn’t count). Ironically, Wale was also on that BP3 tour, and this was when he was coming up (pre-MMG). Unfortunately, ever since Wale signed with MMG, I found his music lost its lustre, and where people use the “oh, he’s an artist and he needs to grow” bullshit line, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the music has to diminish its charm and glam. He covered it up with some expensive make-up and called it music – no, no thank you. The last addition (most recently) that got added to the tour campaign was up and sharply rising rapper out of Chicago, Vic Mensa. Having just released Innanetape on the 30th of September, that got me even more excited for the show. I enjoy his music a lot, and this last mixtape (or free album, whatever you want to call it) is going to propel him to some superior heights. I couldn’t wait to witness the ascent.
Usually I have my concert people to go with, but this time around I went with a big J.Cole fan (fitting, she was the one who told me that there was a 2nd Toronto date added), and I thought that it would have been great to go with someone who was truly a fan (I mean, day 1, not recent) – it makes the experience that much better. Shout out to Rebecca, because she’s just awesome like that. Hip Hop shows in Toronto have a bad taste to them because they usually all attract goons, goonettes, untrained mammals teenagers, they never start on time, and we’re bombarded with dozens of local acts for 3 hours while the crowd just dies out. Thankfully, this wasn’t the case and not only was Massey Hall a great venue for the show, but also, it started at the same time the ticket said it would – amazing.
Starting off the show was Bas. Now, if you’re a J.Cole fan, you’re familiar with the name, because he hails from Jamaica, Queens and he’s also on J.Cole’s Dreamville Records label. From his mixtape Quarter Water Raised Me Vol. 2, he performed a couple of tracks on there with a cup in hand and a swing in his step. He also performed songs that he collaborated with J.Cole on, Cousins & New York Times.
I was digging his performance, and even after the show, I had to give him some props to tell him that he did his thing. I’m definitely going to check out the rest of the mixtape very soon. Of course, because he wasn’t a known name, the crowd (which hadn’t filled up the auditorium yet) wasn’t rocking that much, and people were generally still in their seats. The last time I was at a seated concert, it was Watch The Throne, and I stood the entire time – I did the same for this concert except at intermissions.
The show was moving along, and after the first break in action, Vic Mensa was due to enter the stage, except for the fact that he didn’t start on the stage – he started in the hallways, as the lone TV on the stage blinked with static and all you could hear was a voice with no face to point out. Next thing you know, Welcome to Innanet started playing and Vic started rapping to the people who were still making their way to their seats – I couldn’t miss this performance.
With such energy and charisma, it’s crazy that him and Chance the Rapper are so similar (it must be something to do with those Chicagoans). After introducing himself to the people who were paying attention, he went into some cuts from Innanetape, including Time Is Money (in which he shouted out Toronto, since Boi-1da produced the song), Orange Soda, Holy Holy, and Yap Yap. Prior to getting into Yap Yap, he talked about Chicago a bit and putting into perspective on how people talk to him because he’s from there.
“Oh, you’re from Chicago. Everybody gets shot. Oh, Chicago! Chief Keef!”
I felt that there was some lighthearted humour there, and he’s passionate & proud of his city (which you should be by any means), but it doesn’t go without notice that he’s here to represent on a positive scale – which is what the need the most. He put on a great performance, and it’s only just the beginning for him. I’m sure that he’ll be headlining his own tour very soon (I mean, Chance has a sold out show in Paris, France – off a mixtape). The future is bright.
A bright future is what many had Wale being. A lot of people thought that he would be in the mix with J.Cole and Drake (I mean, before Control happened) in talks of who’s the best rapper, but it’s like he tapered off after signing with Maybach Music Group. Because I didn’t thoroughly enjoy his music as much as I did, I wasn’t into his performance. Because he’s more mainstream known, I can understand why he was more anticipated – I just saw his set as filler. Wale has an extensive catalogue (he has some good songs), but I knew that the majority of tracks would come from his albums. He performed such tracks like: Lotus Flower Bomb (which the whole crowd sung, and that was cool), Bad (which the ladies sung, and that was cool), Bait, Clappers (Shawty got a big ol butt, OH YEAHHHHHH), his verse for the Slight Work, Chain Music, Ambition, Diced Pineapples, Simple Man (which I enjoyed the most, given the fact that it’s my favourite from The Gifted), and his verse from the Rack City Remix. Oh, I almost forgot, No Hands.
That wasn’t all, however. He dug back into the good Wale years and performed Pretty Girls and Chillin’. Basically, songs that made me like Wale in the first place. Besides all, he’s a good performer, and he got the energy up – that was important, because lord knows what J.Cole had in store for us. What I found funny was that he took the time to acknowledge the little incident that happened last year when Toronto Raptors’ analysts, Matt Devlin & Leo Rautins, were calling him a local rapper and making fun of his name. I mean, it happened over a year ago, and he still acknowledged it – Devlin won. You hear a lot of things about Wale and how he interacts with fans, whether it’s cool or not so cool, but he took selfies with fans, promoted a hashtag on Instagram that he would follow the people who posted with it, and walked through the aisles as the fans embraced him – it was cool to see. He knows how to be a showman, and that’s important – you have to enjoy what you or else, why do it to begin with?
The final intermission was the longest (obviously), and we all knew what was coming next. Merchandise, a piss break, and stretching (okay, maybe not the third) were in order. Might I just throw this in here, we had great seats. Also, after Wale’s set, I was told to go meet Vic Mensa since he was in the crowd, so of course that’s what I had to do. Met him, showed respect for him and the music, asked him how he liked Toronto, which he said that he loved it, and it was business as usual (you see the picture).
He just told me to tell people about him (which I have been, but obviously more people need to catch up), and I even gave him my contact just in case we cross paths again (business cards are clutch, people). That was a cool moment, but it was on to the main event.
J.Cole’s set design was crazy. Platforms, stairs, lights like crazy, a dope projector with different backgrounds to accommodate the vibe – it all came together as a real show – oh, and let’s not forget that he had 2 back-up singers and a live band with him (everything sounds better with a live band). There was a theme throughout the course of his performance that played out like a movie, which included some short videos and mocked television news alerts. It was creative to say the least (maybe he picked up some pointers from Kanye, Hov, and Beyonce). He dipped and dived into Born Sinner by performing a majority of the album: Trouble and LAnd of the Snakes to start it all off.
He went back into his catalog a bit as the crowd engaged in every word of every song he did. Testing the day 1 fans and telling the newer fans to stay out of it if they didn’t, he went into Blow Up, Nobody’s Perfect, and Work Out. His first album did (sales wise) better than expected, and those were a couple of big hits (I was told that he performed Blow Up both times prior to this show, so that was a surprise to me). Between performing Mo Money a capella, and turning the Hall into a frenzy with Ain’t That Some Shit, he paced it down a bit, but still kept the energy on high. He performed Runaway, and also Forbidden Fruit while Bas joined him on stage (he was part of the ‘movie’).
They performed a song off Bas’ mixtape entitled Lit, and it sounded pretty dope. J.Cole performed his verse although a lot of people (myself included) wouldn’t have known the words to it – no matter, it still sounded good. The crowd returned to a deafening level when Cole performed Villuminati & Rich Niggaz (mind you, he was drinking on stage the whole time straight from the bottle – real). He sat down on his stool as the opening of Kenny Lofton played out and he rapped out the hook behind a toned down melody of the song. He spoke out a bit over instrumental and the engaged the crowd to sing Lights Please along with him – that was a great moment for the connection with the fans, but he continued it with In The Morning, Chris Tucker (which was insane), and finally Can’t Get Enough.
Seriously, everything sounded better with a live band, because regularly, you wouldn’t catch me dead listening to that song on a regular basis now (same with Work Out). Everything came full circle jogging back towards the Born Sinner songs, as he performed Crooked Smile (the whole thing) and I literally got chills just by hearing the crowd sing along. The atmosphere was amazing as the crowd was the choir and J.Cole conducted it. The final song was Power Trip (you know he had to do it), and the crowd sang the song word for word – if he didn’t want to rap the song out, he didn’t have to, because the crowd did it anyways. It’s really a great song – still enjoy it to this day. You can tell the humility of J.Cole’s demeanor as he graciously waved and bowed towards the crowd before he made his exit. It was truly a great experience and you can believe that there were new fans made or bigger fans made by witnessing him do his thing on stage.
New legends were words by him in which he wanted to be associated by, and he did some pretty good convincing into making his claim valid. Again, time will tell as to when he will properly be called a legend, but even if he doesn’t become one (which I’m not wishing on), he definitely had one memorable night (well, 2 in Toronto) that will never be forgotten. It re-instilled the reason why I go out to shows: the experience, the people, and to witness growth of stardom before my eyes. From opening for Jay Z, to headlining your own tour selling out a venue for 2 days straight, it’s safe to say that Cole is on his way to becoming something great. I’m glad I got to be a part of this stop of the journey. Until the next show,
That’s My Word & It STiXX