J. Cole took over New York City’s Bowery Ballroom last night (August 9) as part of Heineken's Red Star Access tour.

Fresh off Rihanna's “LOUD” tour, this night, like no other, had a special vibe. As the eve of the Roc Nation signee’s upcoming debut album, Cole World: The Sideline Story draws near (a release date is set for September 27), speculation continues to arise on whether he’ll be able to exceed the expectations brought forth by critics and fans alike due to the high-profiled label situation and critically-acclaimed mixtape releases.

On this night however, the XXL Freshman alum reminded everyone that he’s got what it takes. As the anticipation reached new heights, following a surprise appearance from legendary producer/rapper, Pete Rock, "New York City" is echoed throughout the speakers in the packed ballroom. Sporting a Levi’s denim vest, camou shorts, red t-shirt, and black sneaks, Cole finally graces the stage with the hard-edged soulful ballad, “A Star Is Born.”

“Now can I be a star, does fame in the game have to change who you are?” he raps before roaring “if the Roc is in the building, scream hell yeah!!!” The Roc was definitely in attendance.

After running through “All I Want Is You,” the Fayetteville, North Carolina MC kept the momentum going with crowd favorites like “Simba,” “Before I’m Gone,” “Who Dat,” and “Higher.” The latter, he flipped the last verse over B.I.G.’s “Big Poppa” instrumental—a move that faired well with the packed house.

While churning out the lyrics to “Enchanted,” Cole was joined by his collaborator, Chi-Town native, Omen. “I can not wait for September 27th,” Cole told the crowd, moments later, before closing the show with his Trey Songz-assisted single, “Can’t Get Enough.”

It was evident that the fans unanimously agreed on both counts. — Ralph Bristout