NEW YORK CITY — J. Cole emerged onstage at the Madison Square Garden Theater Tuesday night wearing his Jesus piece, and exited just over two hours later wearing
Cole celebrated his 29th birthday during the entirety of the night, strolling in to Born Sinner's "Trouble" while sipping from a red Solo cup. Early on he treated fans to a full catalog spread, from "Land of the Snakes" and "Runaway," to "Blow Up" and "Nobody's Perfect," pausing only to sip in between songs. But when he paused long enough, the entire theater erupted into a round of "Happy Birthday."
By the time he got to "Forbidden Fruit," Cole was floating, using the line "I'ma drop the album same day as Kanye," as an opportunity to celebrate with fans the fact that he'd,"f---ed around and sold more albums than Kanye." It was the perfect high note for a K. Dot cameo.
Kendrick Lamar, fresh off a visit to the Grammys (that left his fans sorely disappointed), was all smiles and a burst of energy as he hit the stage to finish "Forbidden Fruit," and deliver "Backseat Freestyle," "m.A.A.d. city" plus one very moving speech. "[Cole] is one of the first cats to welcome me with open arms in this music business when I ain't know sh-- about it," he said. "So believe that, this is not no regular rapper friendship, this is my f---ing brother right here, J. Cole."
After this, Cole said he felt "like I'm almost Jay Z." That was the first big hint that Hov would make a guest appearance, but he saved it until the very end.
Unreal— J. Cole (@JColeNC) January 29, 2014
A couple of songs later, Cole said goodbye, exited, and promptly returned with a fresh chain. After a few bars from "Can't Get Enough," mashed up with Jay Z's "Big Pimpin'" beat, Cole put on his chain, the crowd went wild, and Hov emerged to perform "PSA." What happened next, however, was completely unexpected, especially for fans who gripe that Jay Z never goes out of his way to show very public support for his Roc Nation signee.
"First of all, happy birthday to J. Cole. It's his birthday but he's giving out gifts," Jay said to the crowd, before turning to him. "So I think it's only right that you get a gift. That, on your neck, is my original Roc chain — and it's yours." It was almost impossible to hear Cole over the eruption of cheers, but we're pretty confident that he joked, "That's all I even really wanted, that's why I did it," before thanking his mentor and begging for one more track.
"They say you can't deny requests on your birthday, so let's do it," Hov responded, graciously, before performing his Magna Carta Holy Grail single "F---WithMeYouKnowIGotIt," and making his way off the stage. It was only fitting to follow that moment with the smash hit "Power Trip."
Earlier in the night, Cole's Dreamville signee, Bas, had hit the stage to perform a few solo tracks, returning later to present Jermaine with a gift that would keep him "Lit." Cole jokingly instructed fans not to cheer for Bas, but seriously urged them to check out his Quarter Warter Raised Me Vol II. mixtape and the Dreamville tape, Revenge of the Dreamers, they'd dropped just hours earlier (with hard copies in the audience).
The 11-track tape was accompanied by the announcement that Cole's Dreamville Label has signed a new distribution deal with Interscope Records.
A gift for you from Dreamville. Celebration. Thank you for the Birthday love. Much Love to Interscope— J. Cole (@JColeNC) January 29, 2014
Major milestones for J. Cole on his 29th birthday, and chaining day.