PHOTOS: J. Cole and 21 Savage hit the court at Oakland Arena

J. Cole

J. Cole performs at Oakland Arena in Oakland on Oct. 20, 2021. Matt Pang/STAFF.

OAKLAND — Months following the release of his acclaimed new album, The Off-Season, J. Cole is finally back on stage bringing his self-reflective new tracks to life. On Wednesday, he brought his most prominent collaborators and friends with him to Oakland Arena. 

A thick layer of fog swept throughout the arena while large curtains featuring the logo for the artist’s Dreamville label dropped, revealing J. Cole rising to the stage with a mic in hand. He was sporting his signature Dreamer jersey in Golden State Warriors colors. He opened with “95. s o u t h” emerging with the legendary intro from Dipset’s Cam’Ron. 

J. Cole

J. Cole.

The stage production included an impressive sky-ceiling basketball hoop that lit up in flames as Cole rapped. He continued with The Off-Season, including hits like “a m a r i,” “a p p l y i n g . p r e s s u r e,” and “l e t . g o . m y . h a n d.”  J. Cole, who’s a huge fan of basketball and even played professionally in an African league last year, spoke of his admiration of playing in a sold-out basketball arena and sharing a building with the Warriors (who have since moved to San Francisco).

Cole took it back with tracks from his magnum opus, 2014 Forest Hills Drive, and delivered an electrifying modern rendition of tracks “G.O.M.D” and “Wet Dreamz.” Later highlights included the likes of “Nobody’s Perfect” and “Work Out” from Cole World: The Sideline Story, along with “Under The Sun” and “Down Bad” from Dreamville’s Grammy-winning 2019 compilation album, Revenge Of The Dreamers III.

Cole’s special guest on The Off-Season tour is 21 Savage, best known for his cadence to deliver gruesome, yet brutally honest bars about his over-the-top lifestyle in his hometown, Atlanta. The duo had collaborated on the Grammy-winning single “A Lot.” Both delivered a high-energy performance.

21 Savage

21 Savage.

An illuminated dagger, similar to the artist’s forehead tattoo, was shown as the lights dimmed. Savage opened with a cover of Metro Boomin’s “Don’t Come Out The House.” Red strobes complemented his theme with bloody visuals. His set included collaborative hits like Post Malone’s “Rockstar” and “Knife Talk,” off Drake’s Certified Lover Boy. As he paced the stage, 21 Savage impressed with an energetic performance of “Red Opps” as fans rapped along enthusiasically. Each track from 2016’s Savage Mode was complemented with its music video playing in the background. 

Savage dedicated “X” to the “disloyal women” in his life and hyped up the crowd by transitioning to “No Heart.” He closed out the set with “Bank Account,” by pretending to count every million he had in his bank account, before walking out to intense bass from the intro of “Runnin.” 

Cole and 21 Savage were preceded by Morray, who, like the headliner, is a North Carolinian,  and recently got a co-sign from the hometown legend. Morray is also featured on The Off-Season track “m y . l i f e,” alongside 21 Savage. It reached No. 2 on the Billboard 100. Internet comedian Druski, known for his hilarious skits and memes, opened the show. He hilariously walked out and greeted the crowd, reciting famous throwbacks including Vanessa Carlton’s “A Thousand Miles” and “Grind With Me” by Pretty Ricky. Fans were in stitches.

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