Chicago’s Grant Park was filled with a packed house on the south end by the Samsung Stage to end the first day of Lollapalooza’s 25th Anniversary by headliner and one of the top emcee’s in Hip-Hop right now J. Cole.
Going on a little after his scheduled 8:30 pm start time Cole was clad in a classic Michael Jordan Chicago Bulls number 45 jersey. As he told the crowd before his set, “The weather was fucked up. I almost didn’t make it.”
Playing to what was probably the biggest crowd on the first day of the festival that had weathered rain and storms most of the day, but despite that still brought a sea of fans and festival-goers to Lolla for the first time opening on a Thursday. As the festival celebrated it’s 25th anniversary by playing four days for the first time in the festival’s long and storied history.
Cole opened his set with two of the more stand out and fan favorites from his most recent critically acclaimed album, 2014 Forest Hills Drive, with A Tale of 2 Citiez and Fire Squad to really get the packed crowd going. He then proceeded to go into one of his more obscure records that most Day 1 Cole fans know with his, Back to the Topic freestyle.
Even for the fans in the crowd, who may not have knew it Cole said before freestyling, “I don’t care if two or three of you know this freestyle, I’m gonna do it.” And did it he did, as he showed the lyrical display of excellence. He then took it back to arguably one of his better projects, as well as arguably better records of all his with his Friday Night Lights record, Higher.
The Roc Nation emcee then shared memories of this moment not being real and so surreal for him after playing a Lollapalooza side stage show years and joking about Forest Hills Drive being an album that, “It was aight. It was decent.”
This led into one of the best moments of Cole’s set when he went into a lengthy run of fan favorites and some of his more memorable hits, with Wet Dreamz, Nobody’s Perfect, St. Tropez, No Role Modelz, Lights Please and In the Morning. Songs were the emcee engaged the crowd by having them callback the lyrics to the songs and unlike most concerts were the artist invites the crowd to help them on the hook, it actually sounded quite pleasing to the ear.
Especially when a confident Cole, unlike most men in music brag about their sexual prowess and exploits, recalled back to the days when he was a virgin, lying about it and worrying he wasn’t big enough to please a woman.
The emcee may not be from Chicago, but with how he is able to be one of the few vulnerable males in Hip-Hop this decade besides hometown Chicago favorite, Chance the Rapper, it was no surprise that the crowd was calling and hoping for Cole to bring Chance out during his set.
Before Cole went into one of his more personal records, Love Yourz, the emcee talked about how, “They don’t show this shit on the news and across your TV screens. All blacks, asians, whites and ethnicities, here. Music is the one thing that brings us all together and let’s us enjoy each other. So whether you are here with somebody or not, grab whoever is next to you and just hold onto each other before I go into this record.” As the emcee then went right into Love Yourz with the crowd emphatically singing along.
Cole then proceeded to leave the stage after he was done performing the record and saying how he was done for the night. The crowd started chanting, “Cole! Cole! Cole!” To which the emcee eventually came out a few minutes later for an encore saying, “You didn’t really think I was done, did you?”
The Dreamville rep then went into some of his biggest hits to date with Can’t Get Enough, Work Out, Crooked Smile and Power Trip. The Jeremih hit single he was featured on Planez being thrown in there too, as Cole did a cover of the song and had the crowd singing along the lyrics to Chicago native Jeremih’s chorus and parts of the song. I think a lot here went bizark thinking he was going to actually bring out Jeremih to actually sing the record, but to a little disappointment to some, if not a majority of the crowd he never did.
Like his Forest Hills Drive album, Cole choose to perform most of his set to end the night solo and without any guests or surprise performers, unlike a lot of artists who usually like to bring out some for their sets during Lollapalooza. Even with his backing band and singers, Cole didn’t incorporate them, as much as you would think or he could’ve and why part of his performance suffered. I would be lying if I said his performance really blew me away like I thought it would, but it was still a pretty solid performance for the most part. Still it felt like something was missing though and why if he headlines again in the future he may want to actually incorporate the backing band and singers more into his set.