Kenneth Johnson / Lantern photographer
From his maturation process in hip-hop’s underground to rocking arenas alongside his label boss Jay-Z, J. Cole has built a domain all his own.
The up-and-coming rapper brought that world to Ohio State Monday as a part of the BuckeyeThon Benefit Concert, presented by BuckeyeThon and the Ohio Union Activities Board. The concert was held in the Ohio Union’s Archie M. Griffin Grand Ballroom, and had more than 1,500 attendees.
Tickets were $10, and all proceeds were directed to the Hematology and Oncology Department at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. About $19,340 was raised for the cause, said Kayla Wood, OUAB collaborative events chair.
As the concert’s headliner, J. Cole, whose real name is Jermaine Lamar Cole, exhibited his smooth, confident demeanor. The North Carolina native interlaced songs from his collection of music, which includes numerous mixtapes as well as his debut album, “Cole World: The Sideline Story.”
Encouraging fans to bounce along with the beat, J. Cole maximized the crowd’s energy with his album’s second single “Can’t Get Enough.” With undertones of Jay-Z’s hit “Big Pimpin'” flowing in the background, the Roc Nation signee smirked toward the audience who cheered in appreciation after recognizing the mix.
The ode to his mentor continued when J. Cole rallied fans to “put their diamonds in the sky” throughout the song “Rise and Shine.” The song was used as a transition into “Mr. Nice Watch,” which features a verse from Jay-Z.
After the song, J. Cole shared what life was like before the album, “Cole World: The Sideline Story” propelled him to fame following its September release. More specifically, he expressed his desire to purchase an expensive watch after writing “Mr. Nice Watch.”
“I’m going to keep it real with you all,” Cole said. “I went and spent way too much money on this thing right here on my wrist, but I know that a lot of people in here right now can relate.
When people get that refund check back, all they want to do is cop some Jordans and s—.”
It is through this type of identification and honesty that J. Cole finds ways to relate to his fans, including Chris Carson, a first-year in finance.
“A lot of his lyrics are real, and I can relate to it,” Carson said. “He is really just speaking of what is coming off his mind and his heart, instead of other people who are just trying to make a club hit that appeals to everyone else.”
J. Cole showcased that realness on the tracks “Daddy’s Little Girl” and “Lost Ones.”
Taking away the bright, colorful lights and other gimmicks often used at concerts, the focus shifted mid-concert to the rapper’s lyrical talent. Covering topics ranging from abortion to the pressures society places on young girls, the audience was hushed and appeared to hang on every word.
The subdued setting didn’t last for long. In fact, the audience spent most of the night waving and dancing along with faster-paced hits such as “Work Out,” “Higher” and “Nobody’s Perfect.”
Overall, the show appeared to go off without a hitch, despite the previous cancellation of scheduled opener Big K.R.I.T. OUAB made the announcement regarding the show’s lineup change Sunday.
OSU student rapper Cal Scruby, a fourth-year in engineering, was chosen to warm up the crowd prior to J. Cole’s set as a replacement for Big K.R.I.T.
Scruby was excited prior to the show, not only for the exposure but also the experience of sharing the stage with one of his hip-hop ideals.
“J. Cole’s like one of the top rappers in the game and one of the reasons I write the way I do,” Scruby said. “It’s without a doubt the biggest show I’ve done. I did a house party at (Ohio University) on Saturday, but there were probably only 40 people in the living room. This will be a little bit different.”
With fans such as former OSU basketball star Jared Sullinger in his corner, Scruby has gained the most attention from his OSU athletics-saluting anthem titled “The Nation.”
Sullinger, along with former OSU football player DeVier Posey, were invited on stage during Scruby’s nearly 30-minute set. The move appeared to be a nod in appreciation toward the athletes who share his music through social media.
“Jared Sullinger was a big help,” Scruby said. “He kind of started some fire on Twitter, and it’s just kind of been snowballing from there.”
Along with “The Nation,” Scruby completed his set with original mixes over tracks from artists such as Mac Miller and Wiz Khalifa.