Nearly a year ago to the day, J. Cole bared his soul and touched thousands of lives while rocking an orange jumpsuit and faux prisoner chains. During his 4 Your Eyez Only Tour in Miami, the Dreamville CEO embellished every detrimental woe that oozed from his fourth studio album, which went platinum just four months after its release with no features. Fast-forward to the surgical summer of 2018, and the nuanced rap dad is back in the 305 killing the last of his demons with more vigor than ever with songs from his self-proclaimed album of the year KOD.
If there’s one thing that Cole taught us on KOD, it’s the art of accepting and letting go of one’s daily indispositions. Thursday night (Aug 10), Cole returned to the American Airlines Arena—home of the Miami Heat—to release what’s left of his internal agony, embrace the fresh voices and creativity of the new generation, and motivate every single fan in the diverse audience to do the same. The Fayetteville native assured attendees that the KOD Tour will help hip-hop fans of all ages, races, and creeds unleash their torment and struggles safely with the help of a fresh line-up of revitalizing opening acts and cunning visuals.
The tour began with positive vibes from Dreamville’s freshest duo EarthGang. Both Johnny Venus and Doctur Dot excited the crowd with several rounds of peaceful arm sways, which became a litness test throughout the night. They even blessed the unsuspecting audience with a preview of their new song “UP” off their upcoming project Mirrorland. Afterward, Jaden Smith kept the crowd motivated with an illuminating entrance to the tune of his new heater “GHOST,” and his overall vibrant presence. He kept the Syre tracks coming, remained energetic throughout his set, and closed out with a bang.
Jaden Smith brought out his father Will Smith to perform the Latin remix of his son’s smash hit “Icon.” Filled with young and middle-aged fans, the arena roared with cheers of disbelief. The Instagram King’s surprise entrance set the bar high for the rest of the night.
Young Thug hit the stage the only way he knew how. With his white, customized clutch in hand, the Atlanta phenom was welcomed with open, slimy arms as the crowd sang along to his opening song, “Anybody.” Thugger started off sluggishly, but eventually opened up and crooned hits like his Barter 6 classic “With That,” Slime Season 3’s “Digits” and, of course, “Pick Up The Phone.”
Before J. Cole hit the stage, a huge banner, listing the album title’s three meanings. As soon as the lights dimmed and the band started up, the banner dropped to the floor to reveal the cloud-like letters “K.O.D.” As “KOD Intro” played in the background, a soothing female voice narrated the introductory video, which featured scenes of a peaceful river stream, a beautiful, African-American pregnant mother, and a newborn child, which could symbolize his own newborn son.
“Life can bring much pain,” she said. “There are many ways to deal with this pain. Choose wisely.”
That’s when J. Cole ironically made his grand entrance to the outro aka “Window Pain.” He walked on stage looking comfy in a ruby red velvet t-shirt, grey sweatpants, and white high-top sneakers, his dreadlocks tied together so that they wouldn’t flail onto his face. Commanding the audience with energetic stage presence, he utilized the entire hour and a half to bring all three phrases affiliated with the title of the album–Kids On Drugs, King Overdosed, and Kill Our Demons– to life in order to release his underlying anguish.
Cole’s goal to “Kill Our Demons” is evident throughout his set. He assumed the role of “King Overdosed” once he transitions into his social media-based banger “Photograph.” As he performs his self-produced track, pixelated images from Instagram models galore pop up behind him as if they’re tempting him to like their photos during his set. After fighting off his addictions, the Roc Nation signee put the ‘Kids On Drugs’ on full blast for his dramatic performance of “The Cut Off.” His alter ego kiLL edward made his spiritual arena debut, as the marijuana leaves and technicolor pills on screen fell the ground behind him.
Despite trying to alleviate his suffering, Cole remained in his bag the entire time. Every US Dollar flashed behind him as he laid out “ATM.” Countless goat emojis piled up on top of him on the big screen as he was rapping his quick-paced bars on the title track “KOD.” The highlight of the night occurred when he brought his 4 Your Eyez Only gem “Neighbors” to life in a way fans have never seen. As the infectious instrumental kicked up, footage played from all the bigots who have made headlines for calling the police on people of color simply for living. ‘BBQ Becky,” “Pool Patrol Paula” “Permit Patty” “Poolside Pete” and more made cameos as Cole trolled them while recalling his own racially motivated conflicts with people he used to call “Neighbor.”
Before he ended the show, he performed “1985,” but unlike his set at Rolling Loud, Lil Pump wasn’t there to soak up his helpful bars. Instead, Cole spoke to the sea of young rap fans all around the arena and reminded them who’s the current king. They responded by putting him up on a pedestal and continued to nod their heads to the bars as if they were heeding all of his advice. Even after the instrumental cut out during his closing bars, Cole didn’t hesitate to pour the remainder of his raw emotions into the final portion of the verse acapella.
J. Cole vents his frustrations differently than the rest of us. He finds solace in the recording booth and only unloads his vices on the mic. He digs deep to confront and overpower all the negative energy on his life. On the sold-out opening night of the KOD Tour, Jermaine put his entire being into his passionate delivery, commanded the crowd with the snap of his finger like Thanos, and plucked at nerves with each provocative visual. With a high-octane schedule ahead, Cole’s demons’ days are numbered.