From his memorable performance at SOB’s back in early 2010 to getting a Roc chain from Jay Z during his birthday show at Madison Square Garden at the top of this year, it’s always special when J. Cole hits the stage in New York City. And his performance at Governors Ball on Sunday (June 8) added to that history.
The 29-year-old rapper was raised in Fayetteville, North Carolina — and he reps the military town to the fullest — but as a graduate of St. John’s University, he made NYC his second home over a decade ago. Despite that, it was his first time at Randall’s Island. “I never even knew this sh– existed,” he told the crowd.
Backed by a four-piece band, plus two female vocalists and a DJ, a smiling Cole emerged from backstage to open with “Return of Simba,” a 2011 lyrical exercise that rounded out his “Simba” trilogy and became a fan-favorite, despite never landing on an official project.
From there, he rolled into “Blow Up,” from Friday Night Lights, and then put his storytelling cap on for “Land of the Snakes,” off of his 2013 sophomore album Born Sinner. The crowd continued to show some adopted-hometown love as singles “Nobody’s Perfect,” “Work Out,” and “She Knows” rang off.
Cole then brought out Bas, the first artist signed to his Dreameville Records, for a performance of “Lit,” off of Quarter Water Raised Me Vol. II. Piling on the endorsements he’s already giving the up and coming MC — like signing him and featuring him on his album — Jermaine implored the festival-goers to check out Bas’ show in the Big Apple this coming Thursday.
As the sun finally found its way behind some clouds to give the thousands in attendance a bit of relief, Cole grabbed the spotlight back for himself to bring his set to a close. With fans throwing their hands in the air and providing addition vocals, the rapper performed Born Sinner hits “Crooked Smile” and “Power Trip” to close.
Safe to say that his first trip to Randall’s Island will also be remembered as a special one.