Just months after the release of his sophomore album Born Sinner, Roc Nation artist J. Cole hit the stage at Montreal’s Metropolis on Jan. 23. With his work held in high regard by many rap legends, Cole backed up the hype with his performance, and made every minute of waiting outside in Montreal’s dreadfully cold weather well worth it.
When he stepped into the limelight after Dreamville label mates and rappers Bas and OMEN warmed up the crowd, one thing was clear: two years without a live performance from J. Cole was definitely too long for Montrealers to bear. The band played some mid-tempo music, J. Cole took centre stage, and the crowd went wild.
“I go to some cities, look around, and think I’m almost Jay Z. But then I go to other places and think I’m almost J-Kwon. No offence, but remember him? Tonight definitely feels a lot like Jay Z,” he said responding to the roaring ‘fandemonium’ within the crowd.
J. Cole’s talent has been evident since the drop of his first mix tape, The Come Up, back in in 2007; however, his first studio album, The Side Line Story (2011), was the one to shoot him to ‘superstardom.’ With his reputation now solidified as one of hip-hop’s leading men, J. Cole has created a long list accolades for himself—most notably, having his highly acclaimed sophomore album Born Sinner, outsell Kanye West’s Yeezus by an approximate 30,000 copies. Both albums were released on the same day.
“We’re all friends in here, more like a family,” he told the audience as he thanked his fans for joining him on his journey to success.
With a cult-like following, it was no surprise that most fans in the jam-packed venue knew all the words to every song. The rapper opened up with bangers such as “Blow Up,” “Forbidden Fruit,” and “Trouble”; but once he started reciting the bars to “Nobody’s Perfect,” it was obvious J. Cole had every intention of delivering an unforgettable performance from beginning to encore.
He also made sure to give the audience a taste of mainstream hits such as “Work Out” and self-esteem anthem “Crooked Smile.” However, the crowd was surprisingly more interested in some of the artist’s more obscure tracks. Scouring the audience for special requests, he decided to perform a few of the peoples’ choices. While my favorite, the lyrically enchanting “Let Nas Down,” was not played, he catered to fan favorites such as the emotionally fuelled “Lost Ones,” “Dollar and a Dream 2,” and “Lights Please.”
Behind Cole stood his backing band, who were instrumental to the show. Making sure each member had their moments to shine, he introduced his drummer, pianist, and backup singers one by one. While all were very talented, the spotlight seemed to shine naturally on the extremely skilled electric guitarist, and master of the turntables, DJ Dummy. It was obvious J. Cole was in good company.
After an approximate two hours on stage, and the occasional sip of Hennessey, J. Cole ended the show with chart-topping single “Power Trip.” Featuring Miguel, the track was nominated for Best Sung/Rap Collaboration at this year’s Grammy Awards. In a room filled with an audience singing to Miguel’s dazing chorus, and rapping along with J. Cole, he left the venue with everyone wanting more.
“Until next time, Montreal,” he said while waving goodbye. Long gone are the days where he walked on the streets of New York wearing a shirt that read “Produce for Jay Z or die tryin’.” A protégé of the aforementioned hip-hop legend and the first signee to his Roc Nation label, one thing is certain: Yes, this guy is, in fact, almost Jay Z.