Every few years, J. Cole finds his way down to the 305 and leaves a lasting impression on everyone who crosses his path. Back in 2011, New Times spoke to Cole about just how often he comes to our city.
"I come out for Memorial Day," Cole said before he opened for Rihanna during her Loud Tour in 2011. "I come around Spring Break. I try to make it out about a couple of times a year."
He wasn't lying. Cole has spent the past decade ensuring that Miami was a primary stop on the majority of his tours, including his Dollar & a Dream Tour in 2013 and his Forest Hills Drive Tour in 2015. He most recently came to town to perform in 2018, delivering an impressive set at Rolling Loud, then kicking off his KOD Tour at FTX Arena (then known as the American Airlines Arena).
Having dropped his sixth studio album, The Off-Season, earlier this year, Cole is back. It would be a blessing to hear the "Middle Child" rapper drop an array of his classic hits. Yet, judging by his past two tours, Cole is likely to stay the course and bring his new album to life with 21 Savage, Morray, and, one hopes, his Dreamville crew.
He'll probably end up performing all 12 tracks off the LP during his 20-city tour, which concludes in April 2022 at the rapper's Dreamville Festival. With that in mind, here are the five songs off The Off-Season J. Cole fans will most want to hear on the tour's opening night.
"Amari""Amari" was the first song off the album to receive an eye-popping visual, so it's only natural for fans to plead for an equally stunning performance. The track, produced by Cole, Sucuki, T-Minus, and Timbaland, will shake the FTX Arena with its bass-filled instrumental and the echoes of fans screaming the lyrics at the top of their lungs. The introductory bada-ba alone will send fans into a frenzy the second it bellows from Cole's mouth, and stans will go from zero to one hundred when Cole raps, "Out of the concrete was a rose/And winters was co-oh-oh-old!"
"Appling Pressure"The Off-Season's fourth track is easily the (second) hardest song on the album. From the wild synths to the hard-hitting instrumental, "Appling Pressure" allows classic Cole to unleash gritty rhymes with references to some of the dopest acts in the game, from Dave East to Eminem to Miami's own Rick Ross. Real rap fans won't want to miss the opportunity to watch Cole perform his slick verse and talk his shit at the end of the song in real time.
"Pride Is the Devil"Based on his previous tours, there's always one song that inspires Cole to bare his soul. Of the dozen tracks featured on the album, "Pride Is the Devil" stands to be that one song. His lyrics about the cons of embracing his inner pride give a glimpse into his own vulnerability — something everyone can relate to. What's unique about the record is that he's got one of the hottest rappers, Lil Baby, laying out his own issues with pride. It's rare when Cole surprises fans with unscheduled guests during his tours. If the Quality Control signee makes a surprise appearance to rap his verse, it would be a prime highlight of the show.
"My Life"Let's step back for a second and appreciate the fact that J. Cole and 21 Savage are touring together. After Cole came through for 21's "A Lot" in 2019, it was only right for the Atlanta-based rapper to join him on tour. "My Life" has ascended to match the success of Cole and 21's first collaboration. It also helped uplift Morray, who croons on the infectious chorus, to superstar status. It's only right for both 21 and Morray to pop out when that soulful sample kicks up, especially since both rappers will be touring with him.
"95 South"The album's intro sets the entire tone for The Off-Season. The beat kicks up, and the Diplomat's own Cam'ron is the first voice the listener hears as he makes way for Cole's first verse. As he raps over the booming instrumental — which bears an eerie resemblance to Jay-Z's "U Don't Know" — the song shifts into high gear with Lil Jon reprising his infamous hook from "Put Yo Hood Up." The record sounds like a movie from start to finish and is the perfect theme song as fans ride down I-95 from the north for the show. Artists usually save the best songs for last, but honestly, fans probably wouldn't mind his the setlist was in album order so he could play this banger first.
J. Cole. With 21 Savage and Morray. 8 p.m. Friday, September 24, at FTX Arena, 601 Biscayne Blvd., Miami; 786-777-1000; ftxarena.com. Tickets cost $25.50 to $131.50 via ticketmaster.com.