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J. Cole Rocs New York City With Talib Kweli and More

While he may have rap titan Jay-Z in his corner, Roc Nation’s flagship artist J. Cole proved that he didn’t need to borrow any star power at last night’s sold out performance at SOB’s in New York City. The North Carolina emcee headlined Hot 97’s “Who’s Next Live” showcase emceed by radio personality Peter Rosenberg and featuring sets from Kansas’ own X.V. and Yonkers-bred Outasight, making for an effervescent night of speaker-rattling beats, whip-smart rhymes and a glimpse into hip-hop’s bright future.

X.V. kicked off the show with an impassioned set featuring cuts from his mixtapes ‘Everybody’s Nobody’ and the recently released ’30 Minute Layover,’ followed by Outasight on the mic with producer 6th Sense manning the turntables. The Asylum/Warner Bros. signee smoothed it out for the standoffish crowd, vacillating between pitchy croons and venerable rhymes before bringing out guest star Asher Roth to help with verse duties on tracks like ‘Don’t Say Anything,’ ‘Brand New Day’ and ‘Catch Me If You Can’ off his recent digital release ‘Further.’ Needless to say, the stage was heated up for the main event.

J. Cole took the stage, coming out to the tune of ‘A Dollar & a Dream II’ with the affability of a humbled cat but with the skills of a seasoned pro. As Statik Selektah, Sha Money XL, Pill and Reflection Eternal watched from the V.I.P. section, Cole dazzled the audience with tracks off his breakout mixtape ‘The Warm Up,’ running through songs like ‘Losing My Balance,’ ‘Lights Please,’ ‘Dead Presidents II Freestyle’ and the new track ‘Who Dat,’ signing copies of his XXL and The Source cover issues and doling them out to the crowd mid-performance.

Cole warmly reflected on coming to NYC seven years prior to attend St. John’s University in Lower Manhattan, recalling how he’d checked out a then-unknown Kanye West at the same venue and reveling in the irony that he now rolls with Kanye’s “big brother” Hov. And while all eyes were fixed on Cole throughout his performance, he shared the spotlight with Young Chris who came out to perform their collaboration ‘Still the Hottest.’ And after launching into his rendition of Talib Kweli‘s ‘Get By,’ Cole brought out Kweli himself to perform the track as well as ‘Just Begun,’ their collaboration with Mos Def and Jay Electronica off Reflection Eternal’s upcoming release ‘Revolutions Per Minute.’

And while the show left the audience fiending for more, Cole closed the show with the introspective ‘Grown Simba,’ rapping, “Lord, please let my problems disappear like Ron Mercier.” If the response from the engaged crowd was any indication, it looks as though the troubled days might be over.

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