J. Cole Continues His Reign as Hip-Hop’s Most Underrated Superstar

J. Cole put people in the seats again Wednesday night.
J. Cole put people in the seats again Wednesday night. Photo by Marco Torres

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J. Cole put people in the seats again Wednesday night.
Photo by Marco Torres

Jay-Z couldn’t do it, though his buddy Eminem got close. DMX was able to pull off the feat, and of course, the human chart-topper that is Drake had no trouble notching such an achievement. Each of these artists is considered among hip-hop royalty, the best of all time.

So where does this leave J. Cole? This bears mention because Cole – who stopped through Toyota Center on Wednesday night – has released five studio albums during his near decade-long career. Each has hit the top spot on the Billboard Top 200. And, yet, it feels like when the current kings of hip-hop get mentioned, J. Cole’s name rarely gets brought up.

This is both unfortunate and inconsequential. On one hand, J. Cole should be lauded for producing catchy, introspective hip-hop that appeals to a wide audience. On the other, based on the size of the crowd at Toyota Center on Wednesday night – to go along with the packed house he filled at the same venue last August – it doesn’t really matter all that much. When you put people in the seats like J. Cole, your standing speaks for itself.

As much was evident as J. Cole blasted through a 23-song, 90-minute set on Wednesday night as part of his KOD Tour. The tour is named for his new album, which represents three things – Kids on Drugs, King Overdose and Kill Our Dreams. Again, J. Cole is an introspective and socially conscious guy, so it makes sense that his music appeals to those who desire a little change, even if they can have a little fun in the process.

J. Cole’s catalog is so expansive at this point, he’s able to sample the new (“ATM” and “KOD”) while sampling classics like “A Tale of Two Citiez” and “Wet Dreamz.” And it wouldn’t have been a J. Cole without the encore-closing “No Role Modelz,” for my money, the best J. Cole song ever produced.

In the end, J. Cole may not get Drake’s headlines, nor Jay-Z’s industry cred. Not that it matters. With Platinum records and sold-out shows to his credit, he is one of hip-hop’s biggest stars … and its most underrated.

So, How Was the Opener?: Young Thug is a star in the making. Despite only have one full-fledged studio album to his credit, to go along with a number of mixtapes, the crowd filed in early to catch a 45-minute set that also included Gunna and Lil Uzi Vert. You can always tell when the opener is up-and-coming by the size of the crowd that arrives early to witness their show. In Young Thug’s case, the future is bright. Speaking of which…

And How Was the Crowd?: I was a little curious how the crowd would play on a Wednesday night, what with local schools starting and it being, ya know, the middle of the week. Alas, the packed house filed in early, mostly stayed to the end and did something to discredit Houston’s rep as a fair-weather concert-going city.

Throwback Report: Not many. And, by many, I mean one. Saw one dude decked out in an Allen Iverson throwback Sixers jersey, which was fitting, since J. Cole ran tape of Iverson’s draft night, when he was selected with the first pick in the 1996 NBA Draft.

Overheard in the Crowd: “I’m telling you man – Carmelo is going to make the Rockets better.” No, he isn’t.

Random Notebook Dump: Didn’t get to see Will Smith’s kid open for Young Thug and J. Cole, and that’s fine … Toyota Center’s acoustics seem to have improved in recent years, while the beer on tap at certain concession stands has not … This J. Cole show wasn’t quite as good as his go-round last August at Toyota Center, but that might have been influenced by that being my first J. Cole show … Nice to see the Astros wake up and put some runs together on Wednesday night – bring on Oakland!
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Clint Hale enjoys music and writing, so that kinda works out. He likes small dogs and the Dallas Cowboys, as you can probably tell. Clint has been writing for the Houston Press since April 2016.
Contact: Clint Hale