J Cole performing during his 4 Your Eyez Only World Tour
As a diehard J Cole fan, seeing him in concert was essential to my very existence. Not only is J Cole a lyrical genius but, he addresses matters that many other rappers don’t, such as Mass Incarceration. An icon is what he is. Who else puts on a performance in an orange jumpsuit? Even better yet, who makes an entrance in an orange jumpsuit surrounded by police officers? J Cole exhibited a character that one too many can relate to. In the Daily Bruin, arts and entertainment writer Crystal Nguyen points out how Coles performance of songs such as “Immortal” and “Ville Mentality” (a personal favorite) “[spew] lyrics that depict the fragility of life alongside themes of racial oppression, police brutality, finding hope from love and reflection on fame. Lights erratically flashed, spun and changed colors, establishing a distinct mood and complementing the vibrations of the beat for each track.” Nguyen was completely right, each track complimented each other and unfolded to tell a story rooted in the intersectionality between J Coles race and class.
Early on, J Cole made it clear that he was going to perform each song from the beginning of the album all the way up until the last song. Not only did this add to the narrative but, as Cole said it himself, it allowed us to “breathe the same air” and “be on the same frequency wave.” We were together as one and this is what made the concert so much more powerful. With the Black Lives Matter movement being so relevant and important to our timeline, J Coles narrative fit in perfectly and worked extremely well to highlight issues of mass incarceration and socio-economic oppression in history and present time.
While performing a crowd favorite, “Neighbors,” Cole provided his audience with actual footage from security cameras showing a SWAT team raid his house and violate his rights. By showing the footage and explaining the racism and discrimination behind the real story, J Cole put on a tremendous show that Billboards Lai Frances called a “musical masterpiece highlighting the oppression of a black man living in the ghetto” Frances then went on to explore how the album “4 Your Eyez Only” was Coles “darkest and deepest album yet.” I highly recommend giving Frances’ article titled “J. Cole Tackles Social Issues: 7 Ways He Took on Racism, Mental Health & More in His Career” a look. Frances takes apart many of J Cole’s deepest songs and explains them in a social context.
Overall, J Cole’s concert was one to remember. One that not soothing to the ears but, harsh to the soul as it highlighted real issues that people of color face in today’s time. Being on the same “frequency” as Cole put it, there was a deeper connection between Cole and his crowd. Everything about this concert, from J Cole’s outfit choice all the way up to the security footage screamed Black Lives Matter and made a statement towards police brutality and racial oppression that will never be forgotten.