J. Cole is set to kick off his 4 Your Eyez Only Tour on June 1, laying out the tracks from his heartbreaking album of the same name, which dropped in late 2016. But before you head off to see the shows, you'll also want to relive ten of Cole's most memorable live moments -- from his incredible set at Bonnaroo to the time he was gifted Jay Z's very own Roc Nation chain.
1. When he killed it at 2016 Bonnaroo
J. Cole was one of the highlights of Bonnaroo 2016. Of course, he pulled through with hits from the beloved 2014 Forest Hills Drive -- like “A Tale of 2 Citiez,” “No Role Modelz” and “Wet Dreamz.” He also busted out older jams from his longtime fans, like The Warm Up’s “Lights Please.” For an extra treat, he brought out his friend Chance the Rapper for “No Problem.”
2. When he wore Kaepernick’s jersey
With the Black Lives Matter movement stronger than ever, NFL player Colin Kaepernick took a knee during the National Anthem -- when it’s tradition to stand loyally with your hand over your heart. “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick told NFL Media. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.” And while many football fans were vocal about Kaepernick’s protest, calling him a traitor to the U.S., Cole defended him, wearing his #7 jersey onstage.
3. When Jay Z gave him his chain
At his 2014 concert at New York’s Madison Square Garden, J. Cole celebrated his birthday with special appearances from Kendrick Lamar and Jay Z. But it was his Roc Nation mentor who really made the night special with a gift. After Cole left the stage and came back with a new piece of jewelry, he brought out Jay to explain: “That, on your neck, is my original Roc chain — and it's yours."
4. When he rapped Biggie
At Shaun White's 2016 Air + Style Music Festival, Cole teased fans with a special treat, encouraging them to shout “who dat, who dat” -- the name of one of his first big singles -- before launching into the Notorious B.I.G.’s “Hypnotize.” The rapper is a known fan of the late hip-hop poet, and once ranked him in his Top 6 GOATs.
5. When he whisked away a bra like nothing
Usually bra-tossing is only a thing of legend. But the crowd at one of his 2016 concerts treated him like a typical rockstar when someone launched a bra at him. Cole took a glance, picked it up and threw it behind him, continuing his song. He was performing “Wet Dreamz, “ coincidentally.
6. When he recorded an entire album live
J. Cole’s Forest Hills Drive Tour will go down in history, for sure. Not just because he performed his third album -- which went platinum with no features, by the way -- in full, but because he recorded his homecoming tour stop and put it out as a live album. (Forest Hills Drive, Live From Fayetteville, NC is featured on our Essential Live Hip-Hop Albums list.)
7. When he played Made In America
J. Cole played Philadelphia’s Made In America festival two years in a row, and in 2014, he made a very political statement by opening his set with “Be Free,” his song dedicated to Michael Brown, an unarmed black man who was fatally shot by police just a month earlier. Before Cole even entered the stage, he played gruesome footage of police brutality, making an impact with the amped up crowd and sobering the atmosphere.
8. When he played his alma mater
J. Cole graduated from college magna cum laude with a 3.8 GPA, and ever since then, he’s been making sure to make St. John’s University one of his tour stops. There’s a funny feeling you get when you see Cole on the college stage, knowing he moved to Queens to get closer to his dream and eventually made it. During one of his visits back to his alma mater, he was presented with his diploma, which he never originally received because he owed money for a library book.
9. When he spit fire on ‘Homecoming’
There are plenty of standout moments from Cole’s last tour, but “G.O.M.D.” is one of the best. During his Homecoming special on HBO, you can see the pure passion pouring from his mouth as he stabs each word with precision. It’s a kind of satire on braggadocious rappers, and a spin on his signature sermon -- that love is more valuable than riches. That haters don’t matter. That stereotypes should be left in the dust. That you should be yourself, and be happy.
10. When he showed Kendrick a good time at a party
And just to put in a throwback clip, let’s add the time where J. Cole was called up to rap his “Lights Please” at the U-N-I album release party in 2010, with Kendrick Lamar and Logic hopping around him. It’s a good reminder of Cole’s more intimate shows (even if this one was private), and his come-up before taking on arenas and festivals.