J. Cole performs at Miller

November 8, 2010

By Eric Woodyard
Western Herald

The crowd at Western Michigan University grew anxious. A bright red curtain closing off the stage was all that separated them from seeing Roc Nation artist, J. Cole, live in Miller Auditorium on Saturday, Nov. 6.

The crowd was entertained for nearly an hour with three opening acts, including Grand Rapids native, Willie the Kid, who is a protégé of DJ Drama.

As time ticked by, people continued to claim their seats and pack the building. At around 8:20 p.m., the main attraction strolled onto the stage with a big smile on his face. Rocking a pair of black and gray original Air Jordan 3s, a black polo t-shirt and a navy blue and white jacket to match his Detroit Tigers baseball cap, J. Cole proceeded to put on his show.

He didn’t use any special props or lighting, just the bare essentials of hip-hop: a microphone, a spotlight, a DJ and a piano player. This did not seem to be a problem to anyone, as fans shouted and cameras flashed from everywhere with people trying to capture an image of the up-and-coming artist in action.

“Western Michigan [University], what’s up?” J. Cole shouted over the screams. “This gonna be a good crowd; I thought it was gonna be like 10 people in here.”

Although J. Cole hasn’t released an official studio album, it seemed as though the vast majority knew all of the words to each of his singles. In 2007, he dropped his first mixtape dubbed “The Come Up” and in 2009 he followed up with another mixtape titled “The Warm Up.” The songs from these pieces served as the fuel to the crowd’s fire as they were charged up all night.

While the crisp instrumentals played in the background from his DJ and piano man, he passionately performed songs such as “Welcome,” “Dollar and a Dream” and “Lights Please.” In fact, he even attempted to play the piano in the midst performing “Lights Please,” but had to stop as he busted out laughing after realizing he wouldn’t be able to rap and play at the same time for the entire song.

He frequently encouraged the audience to be interactive between each of his songs by asking them to do things such as waving their hands, throwing up their diamonds and raising their index fingers to represent certain themes of his songs.

He also informed listeners that he did have a legitimate connection to the state.

“I love Michigan! I got a lot of support and a lot of family in Michigan, like Eaton Rapids. Y’all heard of Eaton Rapids, Michigan?” J. Cole asked.

Near the end, J. Cole wrapped up with a few popular hits that he was featured on with known artists like Wale and Miguel. He performed “All I Want Is You,” “Beautiful Bliss,” “Who Dat,” “Blow Up” and ended with “A Star Is Born,” a song that he collaborated on with Jay-Z from his last album “The Blueprint 3.”

At 9:13 p.m., J. Cole exited the stage and Chris Bellomy, a member of the Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity, thanked everyone for supporting the event, before concluding the concert. The quality of J. Cole’s routine left fans in a frenzy and broadened his fan base to a few in the audience who may not have been as familiar with his music as others.

“I’m a way bigger fan after seeing him in person. Before, I had only listened to Drake because they’re somewhat rivals so now I’m starting to like J. Cole too,” WMU senior Geremy Hill said after the concert. “I was shocked when he actually played the piano and rapped at the same time, that took a lot of talent to do that and he’s a good artist and I can see him being in the top five in the next couple years.”

“It was a wonderful experience. J. Cole performed well and the audience was very into the show,” WMU junior Julia Cooper said. “My favorite part was him getting involved with the audience by talking to us and kind of getting us into the concert.”

J. Cole plans to release his first album in early 2011. A title for this project should be released in the upcoming weeks.

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By Eric Woodyard
Western Herald

Roc Nation recording artist J. Cole knows a thing or two about the college life. It wasn’t that long ago that he was a “college boy” himself. He graduated from St. John’s University Magna Cum Laude on an academic scholarship in 2007 before eventually meeting Jay-Z and becoming the first artist signed to the legend’s new record label.

J. Cole was initially shunned by Jay-Z. But with a little ambition and dedication to his craft, he stayed persistent and eventually won him over. He’s now one of hip-hop’s hottest up and coming artists. On Saturday, Nov. 6, the North Carolina native made a stop in Kalamazoo to perform for the college students at Western Michigan University in Miller Auditorium. Before his show began, J. Cole had a few things to say about performing in Michigan, pressures to succeed and working with Jay-Z.

Eric Woodyard: Can you talk about how everything came about with you deciding to do a concert at Western Michigan University?

J.Cole: A tour was put together for me, and then I guess Western Michigan was interested in booking me luckily. That’s all I really know. I don’t really know the specifics because I don’t handle my bookings but I’m glad to be there. Every time I come to Michigan they show me a lot of love and hopefully this will be no different.

EW: How important do you think it is for you to tackle the college audience? Especially with your album in the works…

JC: Aw man, I think the college audience is really probably one of my most important [audiences] because I seen two artists, when I was in college, blow up like right before my eyes really, right in college and they just happened to be some of my favorite rappers. Like Kanye [West] and I think it had a lot to do with his college following. And then Lil Wayne too, because you got so many people from all around the country and they all rally around this one artist, and when they go home they spread the gossip about how good they think he is, so I think college is super duper important.

EW: Can you talk about your college experience a little bit? I know you graduated from St. John’s University, right? Do you have any wild stories?

JC: I ain’t got no crazy stories, but I had a real good time and I truly enjoyed my college experience. I wouldn’t change nothing about that. I love school and school was real fun, and it was a real good experience for me.

EW: With so many rising artists like Big Sean and Wiz Khalifa, how much of a challenge do you feel it is to separate yourself from the pack and bring something new to the table?

JC: I feel like if I just continue to be myself then the difference will show. You know, all these guys are super talented, but all our stories are different and we got different things to say so I mean, as long as I stay true to myself and not try to be like anybody else I feel like the difference between us will shine.

EW: Do you feel any pressure to make and produce hot music, especially with Jay-Z in your corner and being the first artist signed to Roc Nation?

JC: Yeah, I feel pressured just from my high expectations of myself and just the things I want from myself and out of my career, so that’s the kind of pressure I feel. You know, it’s a good pressure.

EW: How is it working with Jay-Z?

JC: Man, it’s incredible! Like sometimes I gotta pinch myself, you know what I’m saying? Then realize like if I’m sitting in a room with him and we just talking then I gotta step out of the conversation and have a out-of-body experience and just realize that I’m sitting in a room with the greatest rapper of all time arguably. So it’s an incredible experience.

EW: Is there one thing that you learned about him that really shocked you?

JC: Nothing really shocked me. It’s just funny because you can just tell he really is still who he was when he came in. Of course he’s grown so much and he’s older, but every now and then you can just see the real Brooklyn in him you know what I’m saying? You will see that side of him. Just through like, conversation or whatever, it just will come out, and he’s funny as hell to watch.

EW: You’ve collaborated with a lot of artists, what would you say your favorite collaboration was out of all of them?

JC: My favorite collaboration was with probably Miguel, I love the Miguel song. So yeah, probably the Miguel song from this year because it’s such a great song.

EW: How far along is your solo project? Is it still gonna be called “Cole World?”

JC: Nah, we not calling it “Cole World.” We should put the title out soon but I’m practically finished, man. I’m gonna go back there in early December for about three weeks to finish it all the way up.

EW: So you’re looking to drop it early next year?

JC: Yeah, probably like February or March and put out the single towards Thanksgiving and then we outta there.

EW: What are your ultimate goals as an artist?

JC: I would like to just be around for a long time and just be on top for a long time. Once I get to the top I don’t plan on ever letting it go. So like Jay was one of the only ones to really successfully accomplish that, and Eminem too to a degree, and Kanye helped maintain that and I just want to be like one of those guys like once I get to the top, I will never let up. That type of thing and that’s where I really wanna be five years from now.

EW: What should Western Michigan University expect from J. Cole tonight? Last year Big Sean did his thing but what is J. Cole gonna bring new to us this year?

JC: Tonight I’m not even gonna have the band so I’m taking it back to the old school J. Cole shows and performances with two turn tables and a mic so it’s a lot of real good-a– raps and I try to give my all to the crowd and really give them a lot of my personality. I think when people come to the shows, they want to do more than just rap along with your songs, they want to like really feel your personality and feel your energy and I’m gonna try to give a lot of that. So I hope they show me some love.

Photo is courtesy of Big Sean Promotions!

Big Sean will perform Saturday at 7 p.m., free of charge, at Western Michigan University in the East Ballroom of the Bernhard Center. 

In 2007, Sean was signed to Kanye West’s GOOD Music record label. Then in 2008, he also signed with Island Def Jam. Big Sean is took some time out of his busy schedule, as he is currently in the process of putting together his first studio album, “Finally Famous” and had a quick over-the-phone interview with me earlier this week.

Here’s what he had to say…

Eric Woodyard: What made you decide to come down to Western Michigan University out of all the schools that you could have chosen in Michigan?

Big Sean: I’ve done Michigan State and U-of-M like way earlier this year but I always wanted to do more schools like Western or wherever because I had been doing shows all over the country like not even touching the stuff in Michigan. So I feel like I have to opportunity to come and mess with the Alphas and I think it’s just going to be a good time and I’m glad they decided to get me.

EW: What have you been working on as far as music-wise?

BS: Music-wise, I’ve been working on my album that will be coming out on GOOD Music/Def Jam that is coming out in like the spring, so I’ve just been working on getting it together. I’ve got songs produced by like Kanye (West), I’ve got one produced by Pharrell, about like four or five produced by No I.D., and it’s just gonna be a real big project and it’s something I’m looking forward to and especially for the city and like Michigan in general and it’s gonna be real big.

EW: Do you feel like that college audience is the ones that you have to tackle since they are such good supporters?

BS: Yeah, Yeah! I definitely feel like I’ve gotta tackle the college crowd just because that’s my age group, I’m only 21. So like that’s my age group and it’s great because I haven’t even dropped my first single yet so it’s like I have been getting free promo shows by going all over to different colleges so it’s much love putting out that mixtape and I’ve been getting a lot of shows off of it and a lot of people have been liking it so it’s great man.

EW: So what are your goals for this year just in general?

BS: For this year coming up or this year that just passed?

EW: This year coming up…

BS: Oh man, this year coming up I plan on putting out my first album, “Finally Famous” the album. Even though I’ve been doing like country-wide shows, I’ma do like a country-wide tour with me and other artists and just that and we’ll just take it from there. I’ma drop singles before the album comes out and just see wherever it takes me and whatever business ventures comes from that than I’ll let them come.

EW: Anything else you wanna add about this show that you feel like the people need to know?

BS: I just want all the schools in Michigan to come up to Western if they can make it because it’s gonna be crazy. I heard they got a lot of things going on for the weekend so I’m glad I get to be a part of that and that’s it. Everybody get ready because it’s gonna be crazy!

Big Sean brings the hip-hop

December 3, 2009

Western Michigan University has never represented much of a hip-hop scene, but that might be about to change.

 While the voids for rock, pop (with Clay Aiken in 2007), and even blues (with BB King in 2007) music have all been represented throughout not only the university, but in the city of Kalamazoo as well, hip-hop has truly been the minority.

The Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity looks to change that, at least temporarily, by bringing 21-year-old Detroit native, Big Sean to campus this weekend.

Photo courtesy of Big Sean Photo courtesy of Big Sean 

The concert will be free of charge and will be hosted in the East Ballroom of the Bernhard Center on Dec. 5. Doors will open at 6:30 p.m. and the festivities will begin at 7 p.m.

“I’ve done Michigan State [University] and [the University of Michigan], like, way earlier this year but I always wanted to do more schools like Western [Michigan University], or wherever, because I had been doing shows all over the country, like not even touching the stuff in Michigan,” Big Sean said.

“So I feel like I have the opportunity to come and mess with the Alphas and I think it’s just going to be a good time and I’m glad they decided to get me.”

Big Sean won’t be the only person that is happy that the fraternity has decided to bring him on campus. True fans of the hip-hop craft are well aware that this artist is truly on the rise for superstardom.

In 2007, Sean was signed to Kanye West’s GOOD Music record label. Then in 2008, he also signed with Island Def Jam. Big Sean is taking some time out of his busy schedule, as he is currently in the process of putting together his first studio album.

“I’ve been working on my album that will be coming out on GOOD Music/Def Jam that is coming out in, like, the spring, so I’ve just been working on getting it together,” Big Sean said.
“I’ve got songs produced by, like, Kanye [West], I’ve got one produced by Pharrell, about, like, four or five produced by No I.D., and it’s just gonna be a real big project and it’s something I’m looking forward to and especially for the city and, like, Michigan in general and it’s gonna be real big.”

The producers working on this upcoming album that will be entitled “Finally Famous,” are heavyweights in the industry as they have also produced material for artists like Jay-Z, 50 Cent, Usher, and Alicia Keys.

Big Sean hopes that by coming to WMU this weekend, he can continue to establish a solid fan base that will be willing to support his album when it is released in a time where album sales are continuing to sink.

“I definitely feel like I’ve gotta tackle the college crowd just because that’s my age group, I’m only 21,” Big Sean said.

“It’s great because I haven’t even dropped my first single yet so it’s like I have been getting free promo shows by going all over to different colleges, so it’s much love putting out that mixtape, and I’ve been getting a lot of shows off of it, and a lot of people have been liking it.”

 *click on this link to view this post at the Western Herald!

“Live from Bedford Stuyvesant, the livest one, representin BK to the fullest…”

This was the essence of what the Notorious B.I.G. stood for.  He put on for his city way before Young Jeezy and Yeezy made it cool to do so.

While the countdown to the historic hip-hop biopic Notorious continues, I have been getting amped up by playing Biggie’s first album Ready To Die. Biggie came so hard on this album, especially with songs like “Gimme the Loot,” “Ready to Die,” Me & My B****.” 

Listening to Biggie’s first album, you can’t help but to be inspired.

His lyrics were motivational.

“It was all a dream, I used to read Word Up magazine…”

Descriptive.

“So we can steam on the way to the telly go fill my belly, A t-bone steak, cheese eggs and Welch’s grape…”

Candor.

f*** the world, f*** my moms, and my girl. My life is played out like a jheri curl, I’m ready to die!”

There was so much passion in this album that it’s almost impossible to listen and not feel his everyday struggle. He had a song for however you are feeling at the time.

Are you a little down? Skip to ”Everyday Struggle.”

Are you feeling  yourself? Jump to “Big Poppa.”

Were you dogged out by a woman? Listen to “Friend of Mine.”

Big incorporated it all into his work. Which leads me to believe that no matter how ”great” his new movie may be, it can never fully capture the full character of Christopher Wallace.

As I continue to anticipate the release of the movie, I will continue to be inspired by the work he did on his debut album.

 Just remember that…

Biggie Smalls is the illest, your style is played out like Arnold wondered, ‘What you talkin bout Willis?’”

*Click on the pic to view this post at Urban Sports Talk