Is J. Cole Poised To Be Hip-Hop’s Savior?

J. Cole mesmerized a Dallas crowd on the southern portion of his Forest Hills Drive Tour at Gexa Energy Pavilion on Sunday night. The crowd bopped along as Cole went through cuts from his new release and some oldies from his mixtapes.

Cole’s star is rising like wildfire.

In an art form which thrives on bravado and attitude, Cole has managed to keep himself humble while living on the edge of superstardom. Most rap artists today are more concerned with showing the flashiness of bling, cash, and cars. J. Cole is a hip-hop artist with his head on straight. It seems Cole’s main objective is to heighten his listener’s level of consciousness.

While concert tickets are going for premium prices, Cole decided to give the average fan a break. He started doing pop up concerts labeled the Dollar and a Dream tour. Fans can catch him performing for the “dream” price of just $1 after tracking down a secret location for the show. At one of Cole’s Dream concerts in Dallas, an estimated 4,000 fans showed up. Dallas Police were called in for crowd control, while Cole wowed those who were treated to his skills.

It may not seem like a big deal, but doing little things like giving a $1 concert endears J. Cole to his fans. His level of creating personal connections is unparalleled by his modern peers. Before the release of his 2014 album, Cole stopped by a fan’s house in Arlington. She heard the tracks before they were leaked.

Cole has also been praised for going beyond the sound of today’s hip-hop genre. In an earlier NPR interview, he gives credit for his musical diversity to his parents.

“My mom and my stepfather. My stepfather brought the hip-hop side and the R&B from your Ohio Players or Marvin Gaye or whatever. But he really brought me the hip-hop side. And then you have my mom who was bringing me classic rock and folk music. I’m talking Peter, Paul and Mary. Everything from Peter, Paul and Mary to Queen to Eric Clapton and into the modern stuff — so Red Hot Chili Peppers at that time, Counting Crows, Smashing Pumpkins. I have such a greater appreciation for all that music.”

The fact that J. Cole is signed to Jay Z’s Roc Nation label is a surprise to many. Cole stresses that he isn’t the celebrity type.

During his shows, Cole uses the opportunity to connect with the fans. This is a break from the robotic feel of most performers. It may seem syrupy, but it works.

J. Cole realizes the days of being secluded from the people who lift you to stardom are gone. In order to be a hip-hop savior, you have to remain real, understand what the fans want, and be at one with them.

Cole is making that formula work.

[Photo by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images]