J.Cole House Of Blues June 24
At 11:30 AM Monday, someone took a photo of the marquee at House Of Blues, focused squarely on five letters with a singular space in between them. J.Cole. The North Carolina golden child had his fans and more going on a literal hunt for the whereabouts of his 'Dollar And A Dream' Tour location. The uniqueness of this? To guerrilla market and give fans a show - a literal ONE DOLLAR SHOW.
Some stood outside Warehouse Live, insiders pegged House Of Blues.
Around noon when the official announcement was made fans immediately lined up outside of House of Blues, braving the pending heat and more to get a wristband and the chance to spend one lone dollar to see Cole. Maybe they had heard "Power Trip", his gutsy single with Miguel all over the radio. Or possibly heard from a friend about his latest album Born Sinner challenging Kanye West's Yeezus. Whatever the case may be, J.Cole drew out any and everyone who had heard the rapper to House of Blues last night.
"I don't wanna burst no bubbles, but this is not your night if you wanna hear my radio shit," he revealed on stage, clad in black from head to toe. "If you feel that way then I'm sorry, you can hit the exit. This is for the real J.Cole fans."
There's such a thing as a "stan-only" show, the type of rap crowd that knows tracks from original mixtapes and freestyles far more than radio cuts. The type of fan that immediately could share stories about how an artist got them through high school and college with one artist leading the way. Cole had that, especially to the women in my section.
What was special about Cole's show last night was that it boiled down to requests. Fans battling with one another to hear their favorite tracks, all of them ringing out like personal anthems to all involved. There was "Can I Live" & "Grown Simba" from The Warm Up, "Before I'm Gone", "Premeditated Murder", "You Got It" & "Back To The Topic" from Friday Night Lights, the latter rattling off like a frantic acapella with fans trying their best to keep up with one another.
Even somewhat newer cuts like "Kenny Lofton" & "Chris Tucker" from Truly Yours 2 felt like sermons. Cole swayed left to right, caught off guard at times by the love from fans and at others just sitting in the middle of the stage, deliberately putting himself in the shoes of those who waited nine, ten hours just to see him. He was funny, if not curt, with a skit he made up on the spot about a chick who thought he played basketball and emphasized "bitch" like the word was made to end a sentence. "I don't even LIKE basketball," he wrung out with sarcastic glee. "I like nerd shit, I like puzzles, I like soccer..."
Towards the end of the night, where he sullenly declared that the building was trying to kick him out, fans pleaded with him to fight on and continue. He told a story about being on a red carpet and feeling handsome only for a made-up hater to question his eyebrows. So we heard "Crooked Smile" and thought that was that.
Then he once more took requests. The familiar chords of Ronnie Foster's "Mystic Brew" eeked out and Cole got through the first verse of "Forbidden Fruit" from Born Sinner. Then a low rumble emerged from the fans that turned into a cacophony of delirium.
Kendrick Lamar showed up.
Let's chart the insanity of that shall we? Kendrick Lamar, current king of all of rap depending on who you ask happened to play Houston two weeks ago. Some knew he was in town again, others didn't and his appearance at House of Blues on this night felt surreal.
Then again, when is a dollar concert by a major national artist not surreal?
Personal Bias: I was among fifty or so others who walked away from Bayou Music Center a few weeks ago happy during the Born Sinner listening session. That was free with new music - this was a dollar. That should tell you something.
The Crowd: A heavy mix of kids fresh out of school for the summer, Cole subscribers since 2009 and of course ratchets.
Overheard In The Crowd: "You're not even from here, go home!" A man telling his girlfriend or whoever that she had to leave after the cops told her she couldn't get in. It got that real.
Random Notebook Dump: Connor Barwin showed up and a bit of me shed a few tears. Mainly because the guy was a fixture on the concert scene and was easily one of the best transplants to come to Houston. He even cracked on Cole looking like Arian Foster. Enjoy Philly man.
SETLIST "Can I Live" "Grown Simba" "Premeditated Murder" "2Face" "Back To The Topic (Freestyle)" "You Got It" "Sideline Story" "Nobody's Perfect" "Lit" w/ Bas "Chris Tucker" "Kenny Lofton" "Lights Please" "In The Morning" "Lost Ones" "Crooked Smile" "Forbidden Fruit" w/ Kendrick Lamar "HiiiPoWeR" (Kendrick Lamar) "Bitch Don't Kill My Vibe" (Kendrick Lamar) "Power Trip"