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Living The Dream: 10 Highlights From J. Cole’s MSG Birthday Concert

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J-Cole-in-a-zone.jpg J. Cole almost disappointed his New York fans when he didn’t announce a date in the Tri-State area for his “What Dreams May Come Tour” last fall. But that’s not like Cole now, is it? Of course he wouldn’t let his fans down, announcing in November that he'd be coming to the city to spend his birthday at Madison Square Garden with about 6,000 Dreamvillians as part of the second leg of his world tour.

Last night (Jan. 28), Cole celebrated his born day in a big way, bringing along some friends—like his Roc Nation father Jay Z and his west side brother, fresh off the Grammy stage, Kendrick Lamar. The show was epic to say the least and if you missed it, then wow, you really missed out. But thankfully for you, we’re here to re-cap 10 highlights from the show to try to make up for your misfortune. —Samantha Kennedy j-cole-mixtape.jpg

Free Physical Copies of Revenge Of The Dreamers

As fans approached their sections they came across red flyers waiting for them at their seats, accompanied with a CD. On his own birthday, Cole was giving his ever-so-loyal fans a gift. The flyers were an open letter to the Dreamville supporters who contributed to selling out the Theatre at MSG for Cole’s big day. Later in the show, the birthday boy addressed the crowd and announced that this was his way of giving back to his “day one riders.” Those 6,000 people were the first ones to receive Revenge of The Dreamers and would be the only ones who would get a physical copy of the mix tape in hand, which is now also available for download on Audiomack. j-cole-and-bas.png

Bas and Omen Open

If you’re already bumping Revenge of The Dreamers—or have listened to Cole's Yours Truly EP series— then you should be up on the Jamaica, Queens rapper Bas, while day-one Dreamvillains will know the Chi-town native Omen. Regardless, the two Dreamville artists opened the show last night and set the tone for the entire night. With Bas performing his verse from "Lit" and some more songs off his mixtape, Quarter Water Raised Me, Vol. 2, and Omen hitting the stage bringing the fans back to the Friday Night Light days by breaking out his verse from “Enchanted,” the two started the night off right. Even though not everyone in the crowd knew just exactly who was on stage, they were still rocking to it. You just couldn’t deny the energy and as the Dreamville members got acquainted with the crowd, performing some new songs as well as some already released tracks, they warmed up the crowd for what would be an incredible show. j-cole-reaching-out-to-fans.png

Cole Comes Out With “Blow Up”

Just after greeting the audience, while sipping on his birthday bottle of Hennessey, Cole proceeded to blow up the stage. Once again, going back to the Friday Night Light times, Cole got the crowd hype going hard to his come up hit, “Blow Up.” Throughout the night Cole was shouting out his day one supporters and he clearly was trying to give back to those who have been riding with him since his mixtape days with this performance. As he dominated the stage spitting, “Bitch, I’m about to blow up!” fans went wild. While Cole has definitely blown up already, there’s nothing like an artist who remembers where they started. j-cole-hat.jpg

The Birthday Song

Although J. Cole made every effort to make the night about his fans, of course we couldn’t forget it was his birthday after all. The lights went down and in a dark room, with just the shining lights of cell phones across the sea of people in the audience, everyone joined together to sing "Happy Birthday" to the man of the hour. As the lights came on, revealing Cole on sitting on a stool holding his mic, staring back at the crowd as if he was trying to look each fan in the eye, Cole says, “You guys are the fuckin’ best.” j-cole-at-msg.png

Forbidden Fruit

Not only did Cole introduce Kendrick’s appearance with the performance of “Forbidden Fruit” but he also decided to switch the lyrics up a little bit. As the end of the second verse approached, Cole spit, “I’mma drop the album same day as Kanye,” but then he doesn’t continue the lyrics as originally written, where he raps “Just to show the boys I’m the man now like Wanyá.” Instead he freestyles a little something, boasting about his Born Sinner record sales, saying something along the lines of “The man sold more records than Kanye.” I mean, if that doesn’t prove you’re the man now, than what does? Cole definitely showed he is not afraid to taste the forbidden fruit as he gets at one of the most explosive man in hip-hop. kendrick-rocking-msg-with-j-cole.png

The Good Kid Makes an Appearance in Our Mad City

As “Forbidden Fruit” came to an end, with the crowd completely clueless to who was about to show up, Kendrick Lamar runs out on to the stage to a roaring crowd completely enthralled by his appearance. “New York City! Can I kick something for ya’ll?!” Kendrick yelled and of course the crowd screamed in approval. Lamar performed both “Backseat Freestyle” and “m.A.A.d. City” before he made a speech in honor of his friend Jermaine. He told the crowd how Cole inspires him to be a bigger man and shows his appreciation to his boy for being the first cat to open their arms to him back when he didn’t know much about the music industry. Lamar praises the Born Sinner saying “This is your fuckin’ day, man,” and continues to let the crowd know that Cole is more than just a friend, but that’s his brother. To see such amazing artists come together with such comradery was truly an honor and we can only hope their collaboration album is soon to come. j-cole-blow-up.png

Let’s Not Forget About the Band

Cole doesn’t seem to let anyone go under appreciated. Towards the middle of the show, he takes the time to highlight the talents of his amazing band who helped him put together such a great show. Each musician, from the drummer, to the guitarist, to the man on the keyboard, the background singers and the lady on the strings, all got a chance to shine performing their own renditions of some Cole favorites. Last but most definitely not least of course, DJ Dummy out of Brooklyn grabs the spot light to bring the roots of hip hop alive while he threw out tricks while spinning his set. Cole has a great band behind him and it was only right for him to let them take the stage and show off their skills. j-cole-and-jay-z-big.jpg

Can I Get An Encore? Hola Hovito

After performing “Let Nas Down” and “Crooked Smile” Cole bids farewell to the crowd saying “New York City, I love ya’ll. Til next time.” But his fans just didn’t want to see him go and 6,000 voices joined together shouting “Encore!” And oh, did he put on an encore for them. “Let’s turn this shit up a thousand notches” Cole says to his fans, adding that only one song can do that. The “Cant Get Enough” beat started playing and the audience went crazy. As the song nears its end, the DJ samples in Jay Z’s “Big Pimpin’” and little did the crowd know that this was an introduction.“We in New York City right?!”, Cole yelled and demanded each and every person in the venue put their Roc Nation diamonds in the air and bounce. While a wave of Roc Nation Diamonds flew in the air, Jay Z himself jumped on stage. Not only did he perform “Public Service Announcement” and “Fuck With Me, You Know I Got It”, but of course he also had to honor his Roc Nation member for his 29th birthday. Hov wishes Cole a “Happy Birthday” and praises him, but that’s not all. In front of everyone in the Garden, Jay passes the torch to Cole by gifting him with his original Roc Nation chain and everyone in the venue got to witness a pivotal hip-hop moment. fans-throwing-up-the-rock-for-j-cole.png

Cole Offers a Final Thank You to His Fans

After performing his final song, “Power Trip”, Cole showed his fans that he is most definitely on no type of power trip. He proves himself to be the humble, grateful and deserving man his fans know him to be and love him for being. He takes a moment to shine the spotlight on each section of the audience, Drake-style, shouting out individual members of the crowd, identifying them from their birthday signs, their sweatshirts representing St. John’s University where he graduated, Dreamville and Bas’ fiends, and even some by their faces recognizing them as his day ones. Cole ends the show exclaiming to the crowd of Dreamvillians, “Dreamville this is our fucking night” before he finally says goodbye. It is clear that J. Cole holds each and every fan close to his heart and knows that without them, he wouldn’t have the platform that he does. Although it was his birthday, Cole shares his night with the ones who support him, providing a beautiful ending to an incredible show.

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