J. Cole’s presence hits with a stream of consciousness that evokes subtle humor and loads of truth. To relish in his brilliance, just catch the artist on his Forest Hills Drive Tour (which also features Big Sean, YG, Jeremih and his Dreamville posse Bas, Cozz and Omen). When he stopped in Chicago last week, J. Cole’s stellar performance solidified his spot as one of hip-hop’s new legends.
Filling the First Bank Amphitheater from front to back, the MC performed 2014 Forest Hills Drive—which he purposely released without any singles and much promotion—from top to bottom, enlisting the help of 28,000 fans, who recited the entire album right along with him.
When experiencing the lyrical storyteller, be prepared for an edutaining journey covering perseverance, books before looks, faux reality and escaping the trapped small city mentality. After all, the power of love and its attempts to unify an adverse society sits at the core of Cole’s lyricism. He believes in it and encourages others to do the same.
More than just a head nod, arm sway and word-for-word mimicking, Cole brings a deeper understanding to his music. With each track, he breaks down the concepts not only as a teacher, but also as a leader who guides listeners to a wealth of understanding.
All the way live onstage, he schools audiences on the essence of life in its real and fantasized pretenses. The beats knock, the energy amplifies and the teachings capture his soul.
Get hip to the lessons of Professor J. Cole. Grab a notepad, because class is in session.
Lesson 1: Hollywood is an artificial reality best admired from afar.
For this reason, J. Cole drops knowledge in the critical track “No Role Modelz.” Using the shallow women of Los Angeles as an example, the MC describes those with superficial mindsets as “mentally sick.” Avoid the plague by separating fantasy from fact. In other words, don’t let the glitz and glam fool you.
Lesson 2: Allow education to plant your foundation.
Anytime Cole performs “Apparently,” the chords hit harder and the ideal of allowing your dreams to carry you away speak volumes. Your deepest desires are tangible, and with the proper intellect—whether provided by a scholastic institution or independent nourishment—education helps navigate your moves while curating your rise to the top.
Lesson 3: Escape the small city mentality. Complacency can be a tricky thing.
“A Tale of Two Cities” documents this well by juxtaposing the easy-going route of staying in your hometown with the flashy life of Tinseltown. The idea is not to physically make it to the City of Angels, but to allow your mind to expand and embrace other possibilities. Take in what life has to offer and be the driver of your destiny.
Lesson 4: Learn to appreciate your life without envying the lives of others.
In “Love Yourz,” the lyricist urges listeners to value their lives by focusing on positivity and cherishing genuine love. To find true happiness, embrace your individuality. The American dream, known to include “a lot of money, a big house and a wife that’s genetically impossible” doesn’t have to be the blueprint. Create your own. Everyone’s path is uniquely different.
Lesson 5: It’s OK to reflect on the past; in fact, it’s a must.
After you achieve success—based on your terms—you may start to reminiscence on what you left behind. It’s inevitable. That’s why it’s perfectly fine to call back home to say hello. But the key to taking a brief pit stop, without drifting off of your road to greatness, is to allow your visit to serve as reminder for the reason you started.
Catch the next session when Forest Hills Drive hits your city. Get the dates at Ticketmaster.