With several lauded mixtapes, two #1 albums and a handful gold and platinum-selling singles on his résumé, J. Cole is eager now to use his still-rising status to let others shine.
On Tuesday night, just minutes before hitting the stage for his birthday concert at Madison Square Garden in New York City Cole treated his fans a to a brand-new mixtape, Revenge of the Dreamers.
But the 11-track online collection was more than a gift: The North Carolina native set up the tape largely to showcase his small yet talented Dreamville Records roster. The introduction comes at a perfect time, as the 29-year-old also announced that Dreamville had partnered with Interscope.
Revenge of the Dreamers kicks off with “Lil Ni–az (Snippet),” a 52-second Cole flip of Tupac’s “Ambitionz Az a Ridah,” before opening it up to the team to step to the plate.
First up is Bas, who paints verbal pictures of both where he’s at and where he hopes to go on the aptly titled “Golden Goals.” J. Cole fans may be familiar with Queens-raised Bas, who hit the road as an opener for the Roc Nation MC on his What Dreams May Come Tour. Bas was also featured on “New York Times,” a Born Sinner bonus cut.
Though Bas has only been rapping for a few years — he dropped Quarter Water Raised Me Vol. I in 2011 and followed that up with Vol. II last year — the rapper’s quick, seasoned flow suggests otherwise. Surely, the time spent around Cole hasn’t hurt.
Next to take the baton is Omen. Longtime J. Cole followers should already be acquainted, too, as Omen was the only feature (“The Badness”) on Cole’s 2009’s breakout mixtape, The Warm Up. Omen’s lyricism was sharp then and, as he displays here, it’s only evolved in the four-plus years since. Omen’s reflective, personal rhymes make “Motion Picture” an early highlight, while “Henny Flow” serves as a sonic playground for his various tones and cadences.
In addition to letting his guys shine on their own, Cole also joins in on the fun, first with Bas and singer/producer KQuick on the previously released “Lit,” and later with both Bas and Omen for “Bitchez.” Jermaine then lends an assist to Sony/RCA-signed songstress Treasure Davis on the tape’s penultimate cut, “May the Bitter Man Win.”
Any J. Cole fan was likely to check out Revenge of the Dreamers for its biggest name, and rightly so. The star rapper has four solo tracks, including an original version of his hit single “Crooked Smile.” But what listeners will more than likely find once they press play is that there’s reason to stick around. The Dreamville artists to whom Cole passes the mic — Bas and Omen — are cut from the same cloth as he is, while still offering plenty on their own.
And this is only the beginning. Bas is slated to release his new project, Last Winter, on March 6, while Omen’s upcoming Elephant Eyes is also slated for a 2014 release.
The dream lives on.