After wrestling with “transportation issues at the Canadian border,” North Carolina’s J. Cole arrived in St. Paul on Saturday- one day later than planned. Although some fans were irked that they would have to shuffle around some plans to be able to make the show, no one left disappointed when the performance was over. The one exception were the press photographers (including our own) who were approved but told at the last minute that they would not be allowed to photograph.
Cole is not only a rapper, but is also a producer and the head of Dreamville Records, and is known for getting deep and meaningful with his lyrics while still keeping things fun. The crowd itself also seemed to be a little more respectful than a lot of similar shows I’ve been to- everyone was ready to party but not get so crazy they didn’t remember the show the next day.
Cole told the audience that he planned on performing his most recent album, 4 Your Eyez Only, from start to finish and got screams and cheers from the crowd. “I’m really sayin some shit on these songs, some shit that’s from the heart and some shit that’s important to me.” But he didn’t *only* play songs from that album. At one point, Cole scanned the audience for a fan who looks like they might know the words to whatever older song he was about to play next and chose a woman wearing a Dreamville (Cole’s record label) shirt. It was clear that he chose correctly when she proved herself by knowing every word to “Lights Please,” off of a 2009 mixtape and his 2011 debut album. Fans went crazy singing along to this throwback (myself included) and the cheers seemed to go on for ages until he moved on to a few more older songs.
In between lots of the newer songs he was playing, J. Cole stopped to explain the significance and meaning behind each one and really proved to the audience that this album is near and dear to his heart. He told the story of “Neighbors” for nearly ten minutes, delving into the memory of a SWAT team raiding his home in 2016 due to a racist neighbor.
Cole’s culturally rich and emotionally charged performance came at just the right time here in the Twin Cities and although some classic favorites weren’t played, everyone left the XCel Energy Center knowing J. Cole a little more and already waiting in anticipation for the next time he comes to our city to sing us some stories.
For Whom the Bell Tolls
Can’t Get Enough
She’s Mine, Pt 2
A Tale of 2 Citiez
No Role Modelz
4 Your Eyez Only