Concert Review with PHOTOS: J. Cole

Photos by Chris Zwaagdyk

Photos by Chris Zwaagdyk

By Lisa Diedricks

Artist: J. Cole

Date / Venue: Friday December 1st, 2017 - Spark Arena, Auckland

Jermaine Lamarr Cole, Blaza, Therapist, or better known as J. Cole rocked out with Auckland Spark Arena last night for one night only, and if you weren’t there, well then you pretty much missed out on greatness! No joke!

Even though the show did start about 30 minutes later that it should have, the atmosphere remained unsullied as residents of Spark Arena waited patiently to see their man emerge. Once scheduling and stage production were back on track, it didn’t take long for the lights to drop and for Cole to reveal himself to Auckland. With a jail house prop behind him that barred in his entire band, and took up most of the stage, J. Cole walked through the cell gates in an orange jumpsuit that visually projected the words “PROPERTY OF...” and had a blank space to where a city or jail house would have been printed. Simplistic wardrobe, yet more powerful than most realised.

As Cole stepped out of his jail cell, the roar of Auckland barreled through the arena, with only limited stage lighting needed as his presence was enough to get the crowd standing. And boy did we all jump to our feet when that first bar dropped! “IMMORTAL” was one of the first songs I really vibed with on his 4 Your Eyez Only album, and the fact he opened with it was all I could have asked for. Born and raised in Fayetteville, North Carolina, Cole initially gained his sought-out recognition as a rapper after his release of his The Come Up mixtape, early 2007. With the intent, drive and humility that is Cole, he went on to release two more additional mixtapes after Jay Z’s Roc Nation signed him in 2009.

Cole’s debut album, Cole World: The Sideline Story charted at number 1 in 2011 on the Billboard charts and went platinum straight away, with his next three albums, Born Sinner, Forest Hills Drive and his latest album 4 Your Eyez Only all reaching number 1 on the billboard charts, going platinum and also had him seeing his first Grammy nomination for Best Rap Album. If being one of the worlds prestigious and most educational rappers to date, J also takes his time to produce chart raising tracks for his music friends, such artists like Kendrick and Janet Jackson as well as being a vital part and handling most of the production in his own projects.

Hearing his songs and his stories on stage, there’s just that much more respect you have for him, knowing that only did he lay down the words, he produced the foundation of the tracks that give them that J Cole distinctive sound. Because, lets be honest, no one sounds like him. And no one tells stories like does.

One of the best things you get to experience when going to a J Cole concert, is that you are guaranteed to listen to greatness and be educated by someone who isn’t indulged in the music industry and wrapped up in all it’s shit like most artists these days are. There are performers that sing songs to make money and build a brand, and there are artists like J Cole, artists who make music to teach. There are so many videos of Cole preaching at his concerts about real things happening in this world, he speaks about racism, money, the industry and about energy and positive thinking. One of the main reasons I was so excited for this show was that I knew I would get a taste of what it’s like to “J Cole’d” if you want to call it that. And nope, I was not disappointed, Cole single handedly takes the take for coolest interactions with the crowd! He spoke about the fact that he bought a nice home in a nice neighbourhood, which he asked the crowd what that meant, and without a hesitation, the entire arena screamed “WHITE”!  You would think that would shock me, but everyone knows where he was going with this. He began his story about how SWAT teams raided his house and then to make things visually better, he put the entire video that his house cameras recorded on the screen for the entire arena to see, and within seconds chants on “FTP” scorched the ears of many!

The crowd began to get really hyped and pushy at some points, I guess being in the mosh pit isn’t for everyone, luckily for me I was comfortable watching it all go down, security tried their best to make sure everyone was safe and Cole even took time out to send water into the crowd and positioned the security boys to where help was needed. After a while the crowd calmed down and go back into jump simultaneously and having their hands up and vibing with the man.   

His stories continued throughout the night, many of which were introductions to next songs, which I really liked as I was getting more of an insight through the eyes of the artist about what he was trying to achieve when he wrote the songs. Songs like “Neighbourz” “Ville Mentality” and “Role Modelz” had the best intros to them as they are some his most loved and powerful songs. But it was when he played his old tracks that literally had me on my feet! “Lights Please” “Cole World” and “In the Morning” got me thinking back to my high school days!

Cole has continually said that Pac has been his favorite rapper since before he knew he wanted to be a rapper, also adding influences like Eminem and Nas to the list, you can tell by his own rhymes that these are story tellers and have had a huge impact in his sound. All it took was him rocking out on the stage and enlighten the crowd with his knowledge to make it an incredible show. His sound just pours of old school vibes, and it’s what this industry is lacking in so bad, so to see an artist like Cole have such a forceful following is amazing. Diversity was such a key factor last night, it was pretty cool seeing girls and guys rapping along, word for word to songs that hold such powerful messages. Even when Cole said “you guys probably won’t know this, but listen” and then being completely shocked when the crowd rapped the entire fist verse to him, that was SICK! His humility continues to make me smile, as he really expects nothing from anyone and is always honored to have people respect him in many ways, because of his musical influence.

Many shows have a lot of stage production, as a lot of you know, this time around, stage production not only had character it provided an undoubtedly deep message. A message about the justice system and how we tend to trap entertainers who seek out to speak the truth. Truth music is always the first to be pushed aside, and Cole without a doubt, is pushing back!