J. Cole

St. John's University Welcomes Back Its Hero, J. Cole

J. Cole returns to his alma mater, St. John's University, for a special show. 

It wasn't nothing like that first time J. Cole returned to his alma mater, St. John's University, as a rapper. At the 2010 Spring Fling concert, Jermaine Cole was still the buzzworthy North Carolina MC Jay Z co-signed with a heap of heat on his two mixtapes The Come Up and The Warm Up. Secondly, Cole was still rocking a buzz cut.

Five years later, the six-foot-three rapper is looking out at the sea of students and alumni packing the Carnesseca Arena and soaking in the adoration. Presented by the Haraya Club (the pan-African student coalition where Cole was once president), the intimate concert on Thursday night (April 9) showed the former Communications major in a different light. The Cole who graduated magna cum laude with a business minor was no longer worrying about being broke, getting a deal or bagging the girl of his dreams.

SEE ALSO: SXSW 2015: J. Cole’s Dreamville Show Is What Dreams Are Made Of

These days, the confident spitter is caking, reportedly engaged and the boss of his Dreamville label, alongside fellow STJ alum, Ibrahim "Ib" Hamad.

Tonight, Team Dreamville is in attendance. Cole's artists Bas, Cozz and Omen rocked the mic as his opening acts—a smart move given Cole's mission as heard on "G.O.M.D.": "Dreamville, give us a year we'll be on every show/Yeah, f-ck n-gga I'm very sure."

As the man of the night hit the stage, smartphones shot up to capture Cole's return. He's playful on stage, commenting on the University's upgrades since he graduated and making jokes about being a "thirsty n-gga" on Instagram. He's also singing a good amount, especially for cuts off his third album 2014 Forest Hills Drive, which hit platinum last month.

SEE ALSO: Review: A St. John’s University Grad Reflects On J. Cole’s ‘Dollar And A Dream Tour II’ NYC Show & His Humble Beginnings

Tracks like "Wet Dreamz," Tale of 2 Citiez," "Fire Squad" and "G.O.M.D." set the Catholic school crowd off while his more mainstream records like "Work Out," "Nobody's Perfect," "Crooked Smile" and the finale "Power Trip" have the arena belting notes on notes. Not too shabby for a second homecoming.

Double tap some moments from the STJ show below.

Cole's home

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the real is back

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WELCOME BACK COLE! #wetdreamz #jcole #sju

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#firesquad #jcole #sju #2014foresthillsdrivetour

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The yung gawd J. Cole at St. John's last night. #ColeWorld

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Anderson .Paak's Grammy Glow Lights Up New York's Hammerstein Ballroom

"I told y'all I would come back but I had to come back with a motherf***in Grammy yo!" Anderson .Paak belted to the crowd inside of New York's Hammerstein Ballroom. On Friday (Feb. 22), the musician was elated to return to New York for his Andy's Beach Club World Tour with opening act Tayla Parx and his band, the Free Nationals. His energy has unsurprisingly remained on a thrilling high since taking home his first Grammy just three weeks ago.

The Cali native was a breath of fresh air for the crowd in attendance, who after a long work week was ready to hear some tunes from his stellar albums Venice, Malibu and his recent musical offering, Oxnard.

.Paak was that jukebox for the crowd, with select bubbly tunes from Parx, who just like her main act, has a funky vibe to herself. Parx, an artist who most recently wrote on Ariana Grande's "Thank U, Next" as she told the crowd got the energy bubbling with known covers and performances of her songs like, "Mama Aint Raise No B****." Parx set up the funky vibes that .Paak would go on to later execute and perfect.

The musician jumped out on stage an hour and a half later and started his heading set with the song, "Bubblin" that earned him a Best Rap Performance Grammy.

From the jump, his megawatt smile peaked under his red bucket hat as he performed more deserving tunes like "Tints," "Trippy" and "Come Down."

 

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flashing.. lights.. 🔦

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His bliss of just being in the moment was abundantly clear as well as his chemistry with the Free Nationals. He danced along to their song "Beauty & Essex" featuring Daniel Caesar, grooving to the smooth beat while transitioning to "Saviers Road."

There was not a moment in the night that skilled drummer wasn't in tune with the crowd. At one point, he even crowd surfed, calling out New Jersey natives to catch him. Because of his old soul, the musician easily crafted his flavor of soul and funk to keep body rolls going throughout the evening with cuts like "Smile/Petty" and "The Heart Don't Stand a Chance."

Although his drum solos showed off his musical talent and capabilities, .Paak's tribute to late rapper, Mac Miller with a performance of their song "Dang!" towards the end of the concert is what really sealed the deal.

"If you miss Mac Miller like we miss Mac Miller make some f***ing noise! Say we love you Mac, say we miss you Mac," the Oxnard musician urged the crowd to yell, and the crowd obediently obliged.

Seeing the crowd and .Paak arrived in sync one last time for Miller was the finishing touch for the concert. Although .Paak's crowd demo was young working adults, they won't forget the moment they shed their corporate garb to be a little weird and carefree again.

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The “Necessity Of Expression,” As Explained By Jacob Banks

Jacob Banks is pressed for time. With just a few hours before his headlining show at New York’s massive Brooklyn Steele, the Nigerian-born, Birmingham, UK-raised artist has gone all day without so much as a bite to eat. “Can we make it 10 minutes, 15 tops for the interview?” his tour manager asks. “It’s been a crazy day. He still has meet-n-greets and hasn’t eaten yet.”

Seconds later, Banks emerges from a backdoor inside the Williamsburg venue. He smiles and offers hugs, possibly sensing a brewing push-and-pull between press and a protective handler. He quickly diffuses potential rising tensions by giving an OK to his camp and escorting me into a tiny greenroom.

“Just do your thing,” Banks says at the onset of the interview. The irony of his statement is that I, and the rest of the nearly 2,000-person crowd, chose to spend their Friday night watching him do his.

On stage, the 27-year-old is a behemoth. Standing at 6-foot-4, he never scowls nor grins at the audience during his songs. Instead, his eyes are focused and his face, stoic. It’s intentional and penetrative. Mr. Banks and the mandem—Danny his guitarist, HB his drummer and bass player, and musical director Smoove—are there purely to serve the moment. You bought a ticket? Cool. Jacob & Co. are there to deliver.

 

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NYC, the gang and I are ever so grateful, thank you so much 🌹 Boston, let’s show out tonight 🚀

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However, before the night’s performance, and in the midst of choreographed chaos backstage, Banks is chill, soft-spoken and full. Not full of himself, but full of experience, which translates to a gentle but firm assurance. He crosses his legs while he sits and adjusts his glasses from time to time when they slide down the bridge of his nose. That fullness allows for him to have great empathy, a byproduct of the many villages he says raised him.

“I was raised by culture: African culture, Caribbean culture, youth British culture, which is Caribbean culture,” he says. “I was raised by the streets. I was raised by the nerds. I was raised by cartoons. I was raised by happily ever afters and real life tragic endings as well.”

Speaking of those very cultures, there’s a knock at the door. His food has arrived. “What did you have?” his tour manager questions. Take a gander at Banks’ Twitter profile and you’ll read that he considers himself a jerk chicken connoisseur. However, someone else will be partaking in his beloved dish. Tonight, Banks is having the curry, while the oxtail will go to another famished member of the tour. How the British entertainer was able to get authentic Jamaican dishes in Williamsburg is equal parts impressive and mind boggling, but I digress. There are more important things to dive into right now.

Banks released his debut album Village via Interscope in November 2018 and to celebrate, he played FIFA at home with his two cats. For the singer-songwriter, music is “purely a necessity of expression” that he doesn’t let get to his head. “I have meticulously created a life where I don’t need that validation. I exist outside of music,” he says.

It’s odd to hear him speak so humbly about his art. As the night rolled in and fans stood eager to hear his robust voice, Banks performed songs from Village and his EPs The Paradox and The Boy Who Cried Freedom, which merited everything from a woman’s shrill “Sing daddy!” to the New York male equivalent “Yerrr!” from the diverse crowd.

The stand out moment of the night, however, came during his delivery of the pensive, almost spiritual “Slow Up.” Written as a note to himself that he wished he stayed younger for longer, Banks reflected on exactly when he knew he wasn’t a kid anymore: “What I've learnt from a mirror/Look too hard and you’ll find you a stranger/Love is just a decision/The choice is yours.”

“When I look back, I think I was eight. I remember thinking—well, obviously at the time I didn’t know, it was just life happening—but at eight I thought I have to be my own cheerleader,” he reflects. “I realized it wasn’t going to come from nowhere else.”

As Banks reached the second chorus of the triggering ballad, a growl from the deepest hollows of his belly emerged, setting the audience ablaze and prompting many to abandon their phones and inherit the vulnerability of the moment. At the close of the song, he hung onto the microphone and rested his head into the crease of his arm, almost spent from the effort of mentally referring to his adolescent self. In return, a chorus of applause came barreling toward the stage.

Banks’ voice is Thor’s hammer, a lightning strike against mediocre industry standards. The cacophony of car alarms you may suddenly hear outside of your window isn’t caused by a neighborhood perp. It’s because of Banks’ rich baritone, nothing more, beloved.

 

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Sang about Caroline in a cold locker room for you lot ❤️ Catch the full vibe on YouTube Another one courtesy of the wonderful humans at @youtubemusic #artistontherise Brought to by @wearenob0dy and @frmwrkldn

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When we’d almost forgotten our 15 minutes together were coming to a close, a prompt second knock at the door served as a gentle reminder. “We’ll take five more minutes. I was on the phone for a bit,” Banks lies to his publicist, Stefanie. There was no such call, but giving to the moment is what he does and if the moment needs more time, then so be it. There are more questions to ask the man of the moment.

I prod about the several drug references on standout tracks like “Mexico,” “Kumbaya,” “Nostalgia” and “Witness.” As a man who doesn’t drink or partake in substances, Banks says the lyrics (“You're so far away but when someone drops your name/You come pourin' through my veins/Like that Hollywood cocaine”) are less about a habit and more about needing a place to go.

“Drugs are in pop culture. I see it everywhere. It doesn’t bother me really. Do what you want, it’ll kill you, but do what you want,” he laughs. “Ultimately, I understand escapism. I understand needing a place to go. One can make the argument I’m addicted to expressing myself.”

He chats more about recognition versus representation and the importance of being seen but also realizing it’s not just important that you’re seen. But whether Jacob is visible or not, whether you hear his music or not, it’s still all good. He’s still G, as he’s often says, because Jacob made it so. Jacob will always be speaking his mind as Jacob, regardless.

“It was important for me that when my album came I didn’t let it define me,” he says. “I exist outside of Jacob Banks the artist,“ he said.

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A$AP Ferg (L) and A$AP Rocky attend A$AP Mob Yams Day 2019 at Barclays Center on January 17, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Johnny Nunez/WireImage)

Yams Day 2019 Was A Millennial Hypebeast's Wet Dream

It's somewhat fitting that the theme for the 2019 Yams Day is WWE wrestling. While it pays homage to the late Yams' favorite sport and pastime, it perfectly encapsulates today's concert culture for the millennial hypebeast.

After wading in the brisk weather of one of the colder Thursday's of Jan. 2019, 20-somethings and late 90s babies flocked to their assigned sections of Brooklyn's Barclays Center to pay tribute to the founder member and enjoy A$AP Rocky's "Injured Generation Tour."

The crowd is more salt than peppered, even more than a Lil Wayne concert. Puffer jackets decorate the rows of stadium chairs. And young clear girls donning cornrows, tube tops, cropped shirts, and a rainbow of colored, high-waisted camo pants weave in and out of the aisles. Boys in beanies, florescent skullcaps, and cross-body bags are seen down below migrating in huddles by the main stage and sub-arena masquerading as a wrestling ring. If you needed a gentle reminder of just how influential black culture can be, you found it here.

Rocky, the mob's fierce leader, encouraged the crowd to form a pit in the center of the venue. And just like WWE, a single spotlight highlights the pit as shirtless boys crash into one another, limbs failing and heads bobbing. It surely looks like it hurts, but as mentioned several times throughout the night, it's all for show, and for fun of course.

Each mosh is ricocheted off of one another so much so that from the lower level (which is actually one level above the floor), looked like a violent sea rolling up to shore.

The only thing keeping these kids up, besides the body of the person beside them, seems to be the revolving doors of performers which included a long list of ragers like Ski Mask the Slump God, Flatbush Zombies, Joey Bada$$, Metro Boomin, and of course A$AP Mob.

Weed fogs the air as fans light up to commemorate the fallen members of hip-hop. That includes more than Yams today, as XXXTentacion recently passed away in 2018. And it wouldn't be a night if someone didn't yell "Free Tekashi 6ix9ine." "No one deserves to be locked up," it was stated.

"Millennial" and "hypebeast" haven't always found the perfect harmony, but when they do it produces a unique experience. Black boy joy is one of the better products. A$AP Ferg and a variety of other friends and family partake in a fun-loving game of dance-tag, flinging their arms and bodies around as Lil Wayne and Swizz Beatz's "Uproar" cuts on. Other jams of the present and past like Crime Mob's "Knuck If You Buck" and Kendrick Lamar's "M.a.A.d city" also blast through the speakers, while the n-word echoes through the spot.

 

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$ummer $lam or #YamsDay? 😂

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Millennials are fearless. What's more courageous than the kids entering the pits of destruction, are the musical acts that run off the cliff of the stage into the audience. They are so certain their fans will catch them, they often dive head first, flipping into piles of extended arms.

The surprise guests of the night, Meek Mill and Soulja Boy, are perhaps the most trending acts in the social realm. Soulja Boy reenacts comedic interview from The Breakfast Club, reciting "Draakee" as he walks from one end of the stage to the next. Meek creates a "moment," performing "Dreams and Nightmares (Intro)."

 

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Bedtime is approaching but there's not a yawn in sight around this crew. If you're looking for the millennials, you can find them turning up at Barclays.

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