J. Cole – The KOD Tour

I’m going to start this post off a little differently, but bear with me. My wife Amanda is a huge, and I mean YUGE, fan of Taylor Swift. Taylor Swift’s Reputation Tour, that is currently going on throughout the United States, was originally announced in November of 2017. Amanda had a pre-sale ticket opportunity and made sure that we would be attending one of the tour stops that was closest to our home city of Charlotte, NC. That city just so happened to be Atlanta, GA and the date for that show was set for August 10th, 2018.

In May of 2018, J. Cole announced a tour to support his most recent album, KOD.

KOD Tour Poster

The only NC stop was going to be in Raleigh, NC on a date that I couldn’t attend, which kind of bummed me out. However, my brain started working and I realized that Cole would be performing on August 12th in Duluth, GA (about 20-25 mins north of ATL) – the same weekend that I would already be in town for the Taylor Swift show. How lucky is that? I immediately bought a ticket to that show for Cole when they went on sale.

Fast forward a few months and it’s Sunday August 12th in Duluth, GA at the Infinite Energy Arena.

Infinite Energy Arena

I’m rolling solo to this show (not the first time that’s happened), but I’m also wearing my NC State Dennis Smith basketball jersey, so I’m getting a lot of “dope jersey man” and things of that nature from fellow concert goers. I’m wearing it because Jermaine and Dennis are both Fayetteville, NC natives and go back a long way. I’m also a proud NC State alum, which is where Dennis went to school, so it all worked out in my mind to be a perfect fit for the show. I got inside the seating area and found my spot, which was in the lower bowl to the far left of the stage. Folks started filling in the sold out 13,000 person capacity venue and we all began to wait for the show to begin.

There were a number of opening acts. The ones scheduled to perform were EarthGang, Jaden Smith and Young Thug. I was cautiously optimistic that in Atlanta, the Mecca of hip-hop, there might be a surprise guest in store for us. Only time would tell.

First up: EarthGang. Johnny Venus and Doctur Dot make up this duo that is signed to Dreamville Records. These guys began when the venue was still filling in, but they brought a LOT of energy to the stage. Admittedly I don’t know a lot of their material, but they performed a relatively small set of maybe 4-6 songs before they performed one song I was familiar with, “Meditate”, which features fellow Dreamville artist, JID, who just so happened to come out and perform his verse! Surprise guest #1 was in the books.

2nd Act: Jaden Smith. I won’t even sugar coat this. I don’t know any of Jaden’s music. I love his dad Will for bringing the best 90’s sitcom to TV, but I can’t say that I’ve listened to any of his son’s music. Jaden had a lot of energy as well, but it was a much more intense energy. He performed a smaller setlist as well around the same size of EarthGang’s and it included “Ghost”, “Batman”, “George Jeff”, “Watch Me” and “Icon”.

3rd Act: Atlanta’s own, Young Thug aka Thugger Thugger aka Jeffery. Thugger is one of the most polarizing names in hop-hop in my opinion, because he’s so different from what most artists are doing with regard to his sound, his sense of style and his delivery. One person might love him, the next might hate him. But in Atlanta, most people love him. And he got a huge ovation when he came out to start going through his set, which contained “Riri”, “WyclefJean”, “With That”, “Best Friend”, “Family Don’t Matter”, “Digits”, “Relationship” and “Pick Up The Phone”. During the middle of this set, Thugger brought out fellow ATL native and up and coming rapper Gunna, and they jointly performed “Oh Okay”. The crowd was feeling it at this point, but they had no idea what was coming next. THE KING – T.I. came out to the tune of a classic, “What You Know” and the crowd lost their mind. T.I. immediately followed that up with “24s” off of his classic album, Trap Muzik. After those two bangers, T.I. spoke to the crowd for a little while about how we shouldn’t let people tell us what we can and can’t do, and that we should follow our dreams, which led into his next song, the triple platinum hit, “Live Your Life”, to which the crowd sang the hook in unison. Finally, Young Thug rejoined T.I. on stage for the duo to perform their joint banger, “About The Money”. It was LIT.

After T.I. left the stage, stage hands came out and began to get the stage ready for Cole’s performance. After a while, the curtains dropped and the letters “KOD” were hanging above the stage in the same font that they were on the album cover. Smoke was flowing onto the stage. Cole’s band wasn’t even visible. But out came Jermaine, to the tune of one of my favorite cuts off of KOD, “Window Pain”. The crowd erupted and the energy didn’t let down until the show was over. Cole took us through a setlist that mostly consisted of his newer material, however he did include some of his original singles as well for those like myself that have been following him for some time now. The setlist went:

1. Window Pain

2. A Tale of 2 Citiez
3. Fire Squad
4. Photograph
5. The Cut Off
6. Deja Vu
7. ATM
8. Motiv8
9. Kevin’s Heart
10. BRACKETS
11. Nobody’s Perfect
12. Work Out
13. Can’t Get Enough
14. Ville Mentality
15. Neighbors
16. Love Yourz
17. Apparently
18. Wet Dreamz
19. G.O.M.D.
20. Power Trip

Prior to performing his next song, Cole took out some time to explain the meanings behind the name of the album, KOD:

1) Kids on Drugs, “that the times we live in and I’m not talking just about rappers we all on something whether it pills, weed, sex, money, we all on something running from sh*t!”

2) King Overdose, “that’s me personifying the times that I have and do go through the same f*cking addictions. You I’m talking about.

3) Kill our Demons, “that’s what I pray we all f*cking get to do one day, you know what I mean. We all running from some sh*t. I hope we can all look at our sh*t straight in the face and get over that sh*t.”

He went on to say, “What I’m talking about is pain, and our ability to deal with pain. I don’t give a f*ck if you’re from white picket fences or you’re from the f*cking projects. We’ve all been through some sort of pain. One man’s pain can’t be greater or less than the next man’s. Everybody’s been through something”. Cole then went on to perform (you guessed it, KOD).

21. KOD

After this performance, Cole left the stage and the lights came on and the show appeared to be over. The crowd wasn’t quite buying it. And it turned out that we were right, because Jermaine returned to the stage a few minutes later and gave us an encore.

22. 1985

23. No Role Modelz

I’ve always loved the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. I grew up without cable (the struggle was real) so of the 10 channels we got, one of them always had the black sitcoms that I would watch after school every day. Family Matters, A Different World, The Fresh Prince, etc. The Fresh Prince was by far my favorite. A few years ago I even got the entire series on DVD. So when this song came out, I immediately gravitated towards it, and I thought it was the perfect way to end the show.

I was trying to think of a way to describe Cole’s music, and what I repeatedly arrived at was his way of being brutally sincere and humble with his audience while at the same time, providing hope and encouragement to anyone dealing with a struggle, be it great or small. His substance-over-style approach to music has always been appealing to me because his lyrics carry weight, meaning. But I’ll get off my soapbox.

The point of all this, is if you have the opportunity to see him at a stop on this tour, don’t hesitate. Go.

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