I saw J. Cole live for a second time about a week ago at London’s Koko. If he ever comes to your city then you really need to see him. His one single has had no chart success over here at all and he hasn’t released an album – yet he can pack a venue with dedicated fans who know every single word to mixtape songs.
I was gonna write a review but if you’ve ever read this blog before then you already know what I think about him. I think what impresses me most about J. Cole isn’t his illuminating lyrics, it’s not his sharp flow or his electric stage presence. It’s that he produces the vast majority of his own beats, so not only does he rap better than most of his peers – he’s doing it over beats he made himself. J. Cole wins.
Here’s a selection of his finest work behind the boards.
“We On” – This was intended for DJ Khaled’s latest album but somehow didn’t make the cut. Jermaine starts this one with some serious electric guitar action and then floods your ears with some rousing chords. Khaled’s loss.
“Split You Up” – Back to the start, this one’s from The Come Up. His beats aren’t that complicated or fussy but get your head nodding. He manages to keep things simple without being repetitive.
“Relaxation” – Those horns. Jeeeeeez.
“Who Dat?”Exactly the question you’d ask if you heard this without knowing who it was by.
“Grown Simba” – Whenever I see live music now I compare it to when this beat dropped the first time I saw J. Cole. Earthquake for your ears.
“Lights Please” – At Koko he started this one by playing it on the keyboard, just in case anyone wasn’t sure that he can do more than rap. Reportedly Jay-Z signed Cole to Roc Nation after hearing this. Still one of the highlights of his career so far.