J. Cole Rocks The BJC With Stellar Performance

Platinum-selling rapper J, Cole brought his KOD Tour to Happy Valley Friday night, hyping up the crowd prior to Saturday’s White-Out Game against Ohio State. Playing everything from his classics to hits from his newest album KOD, the North Carolina rapper put on a passionate and crowd-pleasing performance.

The rap duo EarthGang was the first opener of the night, playing a short set before Jaden Smith took over.

The singer went through the hits from his album Syre, namely “George Jeff” and “Watch Me.” The Fresh Prince’s heir was energetic and got the crowd’s energy up as people filed into the Bryce Jordan Center. While Smith seemed a little out there at times, screaming and shouting through most of his tracks, he did a good job at getting the crowd ready.

Young Thug was next up. The Atlanta rapper played a wide selection of his hits, from “Pick Up the Phone” to “Digits.” The rapper was less animated than Smith, walking back and forth between the ends of the stages with a more mellow performance. Those in attendance appeared to enjoy his act, though, with the crowd belting out every lyric.

After Thugger Thugger closed his set, the crowd waited in anticipation for the main event. Almost half an hour pasted as the stage crew hustled to set up J. Cole’s elaborate presentation.

Eventually, the lights dimmed again. After a dramatic curtain raising, the North Carolina product walked up some stairs and went right into “Window Pain.”

Next came the banger “Fire Squad,” energetically performed in front of imagery showing everything from current events to J. Cole’s famous Grammys reaction. Next came “Photograph,” with a Johnny Cash-esque introduction beforehand.

“I go by J. Cole, Cole World, and it’s a pleasure to be with y’all tonight,” J. Cole said.

J. Cole had a live band with him for the night, and hip-hop with some in-person beats is quite an experience. The tight drum playing and DJing gave a feeling of authenticity and closeness you don’t get with regular hip-hop shows.

With most hip-hop shows consisting of rappers waltzing around muttering lyrics over already recorded beats, J. Cole offered something better.

Next came “The Cut-Off,” “Deja Vu,” and “ATM,” a quick succession of songs that each seemed to come from the rapper’s heart.

After the track “Motiv8,” Cole started with the first of his many monologues of the night. Leading up to another cut from KOD “Temptation,” Cole talked about the many issues and temptations people may face in their lives.

“Penn State, temptation is a bitch,” Cole said.

After an excellent rendition of “BRACKETS,” J. Cole started on another rant, this time about his frustration with the American tax system.

“That’s some gangster shit they do,” he said. “That’s some mafia shit.”

After attempting to do some on the fly math to prove some of his points, the rapper paused as he struggled with a problem.

“I’m no good at math, I didn’t go to Penn State like all of y’all!”

But after a bit of ranting, Cole calmed down a bit. He thanked everyone who came out for the show, regardless of how big of a fan they were.

“I don’t care if you’re Day 1 or have never listened to me. If you came in here tonight, it means you got some love for me. I love y’all too,” Cole said.

After a throwback to his 2011 album Cole World: The Sideline Story with the song “Nobody’s Perfect,” J. Cole launched into another monologue, this time about not giving up on your dreams.

“Penn State listen to me, don’t ever fucking stop,” he said.

Next came another succession of older songs from Sideline Story, “Work Out ” and “Can’t Get Enough.” While a fair portion of the crowd didn’t seem to know the lyrics to these deeper cuts, J. Cole went back to more recent material.

Deciding to play some tracks off his 2016 album 4 Your Eyez Only, the rapper jumped right into “Neighbors” and “Ville Mentality,” to the relief of the crowd. 

Unsurprisingly, after this set of songs, there came another sermon from Father J. Cole. Pulling out a stool to sit on, Cole provided a lengthy introduction to his next song.

“Everybody in this room, no matter who you are, has experienced something,” he said. “Pain.”

Most of the crowd went silent, apart from the occasional whoops and cheers of agreement.

“Before you know it, you’re twenty years old and you’re walking around with all this shit,” Cole said. “Penn State, people die everyday and never deal with their shit. I don’t want to die without dealing with my shit.”

This emotional speech led into what J. Cole introduced as “my favorite song I’ve ever written,” “Love Yourz.” In a powerful performance with excellent playing from his band, J. Cole got the whole crowd wiping some wetness from their eyes.

J. Cole tripped up the crowd after the last song, appearing to leave abruptly after finishing “KOD.” As the crowd began leaving, the lights came back on and those who stayed were rewarded with an encore.

Blazing through his song “1985,” J. Cole put on another impressive performance. Going a cappella for a verse, the band came back in as J. Cole tenderly thanked the crowd for their participation and energy.

“I appeciate y’all. But we gotta do this now before I go, for real this time!”

He finished with perhaps his biggest hit, “No Role Modelz.” After another fantastic rendition, the rapper was played out by his band and to a loud ovation.

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About the Author

Matt Paolizzi

Since graduating from Penn State in 2021, Matt is (hopefully) manning a successful job and (hopefully) living a happy life by now. In a past life, he was a writer for Onward State and remains a proud alumnus of the best student publication in the country. Check out Podward State too, Onward State's official podcast, that he co-founded alongside Matt Ogden and Mitch Stewart in 2019. It's his baby, give it a wave and make sure it's doing okay. Thanks to da king Sam Brungo and everyone who follows, it most definitely is.

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