J. Cole: A Live Review

For one of the shortest hours of my life I sat in the Mezzanine section of Hill Auditorium as J. Cole pranced around the stage this past Friday night, singing halves of his songs and literally walking behind the curtain for minutes at a time. His concert, brought to us by the new organization Music Matters and the fraternity Pike, was less than impressive. Much less. The concert hall was not nearly sold out, and the audience’s energy level probably matched that of the San Francisco Orchestra concert a few weeks ago. I was disappointed not because it was only a decent show, but because I had such high expectations for it. While I prepared myself for the ramifications of having a concert at Hill Auditorium, I had been to the Lupe Fiasco show and had experienced ways it could still work. These circumstances were not repeated Friday night.

A few weeks ago, I was intrigued and excited when I heard that Music Matters was having a competition for student organizations to perform as the opening act, and thrilled to hear that Encore (a favorite Hip Hop dance crew of mine) won the contest. However, at the concert all three groups that were being considered got a chance perform. This is great because it allows more students to be involved in the show, which I think is extremely valuable, but it marked the first moment my expectations were far from met. Also, the dance groups were not allowed to even stay and watch the performance without purchasing tickets. Trust me, Music Matters, there were plenty of open seats for them.

I was further surprised when J. Cole started his set at 9:30, an unprecedentedly early time for a Hip Hop show. My best guess is that this was due to restraints from either Hill Auditorium or Music Matters, and either way it reflects more upon the poor organization of the night. He only played for an hour, and because of this restriction he mostly only sang the first half his songs. This made it very difficult for the audience to coincide with the rhythm of the show. I expected his set to be primarily composed of his most recent, and debut, album “Cole World.” Again, my expectations were incorrect. While I was pleased he incorporated my three favorites (Nobody’s Perfect, Can’t Get Enough and Work Out) I would have enjoyed to hear some other tracks off the album. Full songs off “Cole World” would have been much better than partial songs off earlier mixtapes.

The only aspect of the evening I was completely unprepared for was J. Cole’s accompaniment. I was unwaveringly sure that J. Cole would not have a live band behind him, because most of his beats are predominately synthesized, but I was proved wrong when I walked into Hill and saw a drummer, guitarist and two keyboardists on stage. Far from just merely acknowledging his band, J. Cole allowed time for each member to have his own solo. Each was undeniably impressive, but he does not deserve that credit. I thought the solos interrupted the show and made it even more difficult to get excited about J Cole’s music. A good live hip hop artist will use each song to ignite and galvanize the crowd, while J. Cole took unnecessary breaks and disrupted the cohesion of his set. So while I was very impressed with the talent of his band, I was simultaneously losing respect for J. Cole. One of my favorite parts of the show was when J. Cole’s DJ spun a live remix of Big Sean’s “Dance A$$” creating an entirely new song right as we watched.

This was one of two ways J. Cole attempted to connect to his audience (Big Sean is from the D). His second was when he went backstage during one of his band member’s solos and came back out wearing a Michigan sweatshirt. Honestly, it’s always great to see Michigan pride, but it would be much more impressive if he wore it outside of our campus. Overall, the night was not nearly worth the price of admission, and the young Music Matters crew might want to reconsider the name of their organization, for it Friday night’s concert was any indication, it obviously doesn’t matter much.

Alex Winnick

Alex is a senior at Michigan. He studies English, environmental sustainability, and methods of being funny. He enjoys riding his bike, drinking cold water and tutoring. He would like to see a world in which everyone helps each other as much as they possibly can.

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