By Sowmya Krishnamurthy
"This is a special night," J. Cole said to a packed house at Irving Plaza on Wednesday night, after visiting "RapFix Live." It was the NYC stop on the rapper's national 'Dollar & A Dream' Tour and given the long lines of ardent fans--many of whom had been waiting in line for tickets since morning--Cole decided to add another show right after, where Drake joined him. Though Born Sinner was released earlier this week, it wasn't an album release concert so much as it was a way of giving back to the fans that had helped him get to where he is today.
Heard its Madness at the venue. I will add a second show tonight. Please be EASY. NYC
— J. Cole (@JColeNC) June 19, 2013
The mutual love between rapper and fan was palpable and Cole was markedly at ease. Wearing camouflage pants and a black shirt (and a gold chain that seemed to malfunction early on), he was accompanied by a live band that included guitar and keys. The rapper treated the screaming throng to a set of his fan favorites, starting with "Grown Simba" and then "Before I'm Gone." He shared that his grueling promo schedule had caused him to strain his voice and he needed fans to help him make it through all of the material. They were more than happy to oblige, screaming through "Nobody's Perfect," "In The Morning" and "Sideline Story."
At one point, Cole literally delved into the crowd and asked them for requests. Clearly his DJ came prepared with every song in his catalog. Fans shouted out and Cole delivered on "Back To The Topic. His own lyricism on the track literally wore the rapper out. "That sh-- is hard as f---!" he laughed afterwards.
Bas joined him to perform "Lit" in the first show. "I'm not expecting nobody to know this song" Cole said of the collab but he added that it was "The best song of the summer." Always the gracious host, Cole then encouraged fans to support Bas and get his Quarter Water Raised Me Vol 2. Cole's mentor and Roc Nation boss Jay-Z was not in the house but his presence was felt during the fan-requested "Dead Presidents II." Cole had everyone throw up their diamonds in the sky out of support for the big man in his absence.
The show ended with two of Cole's more sensitive songs, "Lights Please" and the single "Power Trip." The finale was accompanied by strobe lights and throbbing percussion with the fans singing Miguel's hook in remarkably melodic unison. Cole's voice may have started to give out but no one could tell; they were too busy celebrating the indie-turned-superstar rapper's success. "New York City! I f---ing love y'all. Thank you," he closed.
Cole added a second show that night, and during his set Drake joined him on stage to perform the Friday Night Lights cut "In The Morning" then stuck around for a short set that included "Started From The Bottom."