By Reginald Allen
Special to the Times
Third time’s a charm for J. Cole, who made his triumphant return to the Magic City earlier this month. After two sold-out shows at mid-sized venues Iron City and Avondale Brewing company, the North Carolina native decided to up the ante with an arena show. The five-time Grammy-nominated artist brought his KOD tour to the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Center on Sept. 13 with actor-rapper Jaden Smith, hip-hop duo EarthGang and the mysterious kiLL edward. The tour was in support of his album of the same name.
Rapper Young Thug, who was initially billed as an opening act, was not present.
Kicking off the show, the hooded kiLL edward (rumored to be Cole himself) set the tone with “Tidal Wave” before shifting the attention to Earthgang members Johnny Venus and Doctur Dot. Hailing from the Atlanta, the two warmed the crowd with a bevy of headbangers, including a controversial track geared toward President Donald Trump.
The youthful Smith gave attendees that last minute shot of energy with his moon-walking skills and catchy tracks “Batman” and hit single “Icon.” The actor-turned hip hop star didn’t hold back during his nine-song set, dancing across the stage while being backed by flashing LED lights.
Cole, born Jermaine Cole, took the stage a little after 9 p.m. with the stationary, but emotional “Window Pain” before launching into a barrage of tracks from K.O.D, ultimately segueing into some of his older hits. The stage’s simplistic setup was comprised of L.E.D screens and gigantic letters (K.O.D) hanging from both ends. Energetic songs like “Fire Squad” featured stunning visuals that bolstered Cole’s performance, while the lower utilized calm and neutral tones.
While Cole dedicated a handful of the 23-song setlist, he paid homage to old school fans with a throng of fan-favorites from Born Sinner, 2014 Forest Hills Drive and last year’s 4 Your Eyez Only. Despite being an arena show, the 33-year-old treated the show as an intimate affair, often taking breaks to dialogue in the audience.
Throughout, Cole performed popular hits “Work Out”, “No Role Modelz”, “ Power Trip”, “ Motib8”, “ Can’t Get Enough” and “ G.O.M.D.”