Roc Nation signee and XXL Freshman, J. Cole, surprised fans on Wednesday night (June 16) with a secret performance at mentor Jay-Z’s 40/40 Club in New York City.
Cole, who celebrated the one-year anniversary of the release of his critically acclaimed mixtape, The Warm Up, the night before, thanked the audience for their support before beginning his brief set which included some of the tape’s most notable songs.
“When the beat drops I want to have this bourgeois 40/40 Club lookin’ like a Wu-Tang show,” he yelled before jumping into “Young Simba.” The Manhattan club was packed to capacity with industry insiders and a few fans that were lucky enough to learn about the location of the secret performance.
The North Carolina MC, who thrives off of audience participation, was thrown off by the mostly industry crowd’s unfamiliarity with his catalog. While everyone in attendance did their best to participate when called upon, Cole at times seemed to be the only person in the building making any noise— a fact he was clearly disappointed in. During the fan-favorite “Lights Please,” he looked to the audience to help him recover after forgetting his lyrics, only to learn he wasn’t the only one who didn’t know the song word for word.
Cole did not let the crowd discourage him, however. He humbly joked about the lack of participation then quickly moved on, focusing on connecting with the handful of die-hard fans he was able to spot singing along amongst the sea of camera’s and video recorders.
Between songs, Cole apologized to the audience for appearing distracted, explaining that he couldn’t help glancing at the large televisions that were broadcasting his performance throughout the club. “I keep lookin’ at myself on the screen,” he joked.
He was able to overcome the distractions and less-than enthusiastic crowd by the time he got to the show’s closer, his verse from Jay-Z’s “A Star Is Born,” sending those in attendance home with the feeling that they had just seen hip-hop’s next big thing. —Calvin Stovall