Not long after delivering the last few bars of icebreaking show opener “Welcome,” J. Cole addressed his eager and ecstatic audience at New York City’s Irving Plaza last night (June 19) with mild, playful caution: “If you came to hear the hits, this is not your night.”

Not surprisingly, nobody seemed to mind in the least. In the two anticipatory hours after the venue opened its doors, it was clear that those who’d hustled and waited outdoors in long, humid, chaotic lines for a chance at the $1 tickets to this concert were among Cole’s biggest fans in the city. Upon entry, many had bolted up the stairs and leapt onto the dance floor facing the stage in celebration, delirious and grateful for access to such a rare–and dizzyingly cheap–opportunity to see the virtuosic Roc Nation signee the same week his sophomore effort Born Sinner dropped.

Related: New Releases: Kanye West, J. Cole, Kelly Rowland

For more than an hour, Cole kept his word and rewarded the crowd with surprises and plenty of fan favorites. Far from the sort of set one might experience at a summertime radio station festival or multi-artist arena tour, the 28-year old rapper dug deep into his catalog to showcase a selection of material from both his albums and mixtapes alike. Cole even openly solicited song requests at multiple opportunities, rejecting some not for lack of interest, but for lack of the actual music files on his DJ’s hard drive. “That’s too old!” he countered to one deep cuts fan near the front.



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