Hurricane-forced rain and frustratingly intense traffic could not impede the “J.Cole-vah Witnesses” from coming out Friday night (Aug. 21) to support their leader, Dreamville Records founder, J. Cole.

With a mirroring album cover of his most recent release, the critically acclaimed 2014 Forest Hills Drive, the entire show seemed conversational, giving the expansive arena an intimate feel. Looking more like The Weeknd than the savior of hip-hop, Cole consecutively went through his third studio album, mixing in anecdotal interludes between a few of the songs.

Before breaking into his anti-“save a ho” anthem, “No Role Modelz,” Cole recanted his experience with women with a Hollywood mentality, specifically one young lady in particular who had a rear end that was comparatively similar to “a bag of wet cement mixed with some SuperGlue rubber adhesive type shit”. He continued on to express his distaste for the microwave lifestyle, although he revealed that he himself falls for a thirst trap every now and again.

Another soliloquy comes with “St. Tropez”, as he admits that he in fact has never been to the French Riviera: “If you paid me a million dollars right now, I couldn’t point to it on a map”, rather explaining that the song flushes out his mentality of making it out of Fayetteville, North Carolina. He looks back on moving to New York City and grinding hard to reach all of his goals and aspirations.

St. Tropez (as well as the other places like it: Paris France; London, England; Los Angeles, California; Houston, Texas) is a metaphor for Cole overcoming his small town mentality. More anecdotes follow as Cole talks about the guys he grew up and how many of them are 30+ years old still on their mother’s couch. But Jermaine explained how his necessity to break free from his comfort zone is what helped him find his successes.

Cole gave food for thought, but coupled it with some of his more high-energy jams. The crowd went absolutely crazy during the standout tracks from the album, “A Tale of 2 Citiez” (which came with its own Snapchat filter), “Wet Dreamz”, and “GOMD”. The expansive projection screen and LED lighting heightened the music, reflecting whatever emotion Cole was trying to convey, whether a swirling star scape or the world-famous Hollywood sign slowly burning.

Cole World did not neglect his other albums though, throughout the set, he broke from Forest Hills to perform a trifecta of songs from his first album Cole World: The Sideline Story: “Lights Please”, “In The Morning” (sans Drake), “Nobody’s Perfect”. A perfect treat, the amped crowd rapped every word to the soon-to-be classic tracks.

As Cole wrapped up the last song on the album, “Love Yourz”, everyone began to file out of the arena as he left the stage, seemingly ending the concert. Instead, the West Indian-tinged track “Can’t Get Enough” began to ease through the speakers as Cole returned for his encore performance. He followed with the sensual and seductive hit “Planes”, joined by the reappearance of opener Jeremih, much to the pleasure of the crowd, many of whom were not present for his initial performance, due to the impeding weather.

As Jeremih exited the stage crooning his portion of the Wale song “The Body”, J. Cole flexed his own vocals, segueing smoothly into his first single “Work Out”. The night ended on a high note as Cole finished with his two highest-charting singles, “Crooked Smile” and “Power Trip”, turning the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion into the world’s largest karaoke night.

Before assessing J. Cole’s first concert in Houston since the Dollar and A Dream Tour, mentions must be made of YG and Jeremih, both putting on an amazing performance to the crowd slowly trickling into the pavilion. The concert took an intermission as the rain and bad weather picked up, forcing the venue officials to ask everyone the hill of the pavilion to find stable covering. Nevertheless, once Big Sean took the stage, it was full steam ahead.

Sean Don went through all of his hits, from “Dance (A$s)” to “My Last”, continuing on to some of his newer tracks from Dark Sky Paradise. A special moment of the night came as the entire arena was illuminated during his performance of “One Man Can Change The World”, followed by a group empowerment moment as Sean reflected on the life of his late grandmother. Naturally, Big Sean capped his opening set with his overtly NSFW singe “IDFWU”, appropriately accompanied by a plethora of middle fingers from the eager crowd.

If Cole’s intent was to give us an intimate glimpse at the album he has worked so diligently on, that surely was the takeaway from the whole experience. Hollywood Cole is still that young man from Fayetteville, however, now Jermaine Cole is a platinum-selling artist in the same conversation as Drake, Kendrick Lamar, and Jay Z. If these past three albums and four years have been any indication to the potential that J. Cole possesses, then his career is only looking brighter and brighter.

J. Cole Set List
Intro
January 28th
Wet Dreamz
03’ Adolescence
A Tale of 2 Citiez
Fire Squad
St. Tropez
Lights Please
In The Morning
Nobody’s Perfect
G.O.M.D.
No Role Modelz
Hello
Apparently
Love Yourz

Encore
Can’t Get Enough
Planes (featuring Jeremih)
Work Out
Crooked Smile
Power Trip

Twitter – @Shea_Jordan