J Cole was one of the newest prospects that Ive seen coming as one of hip hop’s potential brightest stars. His mixtapes which served up as appetizers proved that the dude can not only rap but he can also tell compelling stories. The mixtapes such as the Friday Night Light Series and The Warm Ups showcased J Cole as possibly the next to come out of the Roc Nation camp and represent for the new generation of spitters. Even though he made alot of rookie mistakes on his debut album which was considered as a disappointment to his core but it was nevertheless a successful album that surprisingly sold and solidified Cole as a potential player.
One of the problems was that it seemed that Cole with his debut album Cole World: The Sideline Story was that it seemed unsure of himself at times. He wasn’t sure if he wanted to be known as a premier spitter, a regular kid rapping, or a radio rapper. His radio attempt helped him gained new fans and showed that he could do radio hits but thats not truly what J Cole is all about. The surprisingly successful debut helped set Cole up into another plateau as it would not only change his status but as well as his bank account.
Born Sinner comes across as Cole finally being comfortable in his own skin and really finding his niche. In a market where they pressure new artists to make songs like Lil Wayne, Rick Ross, Drake, or whomever is hot at the moment, J Cole did what would be considered a rarity in hip hop. He did MOST of the album himself production wise along with doing mostly songs by himself rapping. J Cole wanted to take this new opportunity to re-introduce himself and share his story. Having a compilation of hot guest appearances would have taken the focus off Cole himself so him taking the risk of doing an album mostly himself was something that would be considered a breath of fresh of air considering most of the todays rap releases come across as compilations.
J Cole has gotten alot of flack for being “uncharismatic”,” bland” or “boring”. I do admit there be instances where I feel he need to put a bit more energetic, Find ways to step out of the box, or find ways to make his flow standout so he can be seen as his own artist instead of a rappity rapper. Surprisingly he does this throughout Born Sinner which turned out into a great album.
I could tell that with a title titled Born Sinner that Cole was gonna possibly reach into a different or possible darker route this time around. It’s also clear that he studied the greats such as Nas, Jay, Tupac, Biggie, and even Kanye on how to format different songs along with developing himself into an artist.
The cover which features a weird visual of a devil with a crown on it shed is sure to spark debate if Cole is the next to have joined the “elite” next to his boss JayZ. The Song titled Villumanti perfectly opens up the album where Cole is showcasing more aggressiveness behind his raps. Even going as far as to allude that he’s down with the Villumanti along with the constant usage of the word faggot which is sure to cause a bit of a stir. It’s the perfect way to open up the album because it showcases Cole as a “Born Sinner” but throughout this album, You get to listen and feel his journey through spirituality along with finding his way out of his new world.
Determined to show that he’s more than a one trick pony and willing to show that he’s really an artist. Between talking about how his new-found recondition has effected him, his issues with infidelity, racism, or touching spirituality. Born Sinner showcases a Bright Young Man whom finds himself corrupted by the new world he’s in but at the same time trying to get out with guidance from the church. It tells a compelling story as it easily flows throughout the album.
I like the soulful vibe that transcends throughout the album. It’s sometimes very somber but it’s not too drowning. Theres instances where Cole shows that he been paying attention to the soulful sounds of classic hip hop tracks from the 90s. Land of the Snakes and Forbidden Fruit both sample classic hip hop tracks from the 90s respectfully. Land of the Snakes contains samples from Outkasts Da Art of Story Telling which showcases Cole’s newly improved skill set. The same with Forbidden Fruit which features an addictive hook by new West Coast sensation Kendrick Lamar.
He tackles the concept of Mo Money which while may be a tired concept as he tackles the root of why its evil, It’s a great sign because Cole is showing that he’s willing to branch out of his zone and bring insightful topics to the table. He also plays the role of a reckless spending rapper on Chaining Day where he talks about blowing big money on Jewels and showing humor in doing so. It’s a refreshing concept because it explains the mentality alot of rappers develop when they get large in the Industry.
Let Nas Down is no question the song most people are heavily talking about from the album. J.Cole clearly pours his heart not in disdain for his idol but in hoping that he can gain approval for stepping up his pen game. He also explains his initial reaction to when Nas told him that he wasn’t feeling the song Workout and shows that he’s trying to win his approval. It further shows how highly regarded Nas really is as an emcee.
Whereas its clear that he soaked up some game about being braggadocio from his boss JayZ on Rich Niggaz, He also finally showed that he that he can possibly make catchy tunes as he did with Power Trip which features R&B Crooner Miguel. He even started to take a page out of the late Tupac Shakur book on how to pen uplifting songs which is where songs such as Crooked Smile come to play. A track about women upliftment which has a surprise feature from TLC.
The album title track Born Sinner is the album’s main heartfelt track where Cole finally comes to his own as a superb song writer. reminiscing over friends he lost, pressures in the rap game and reflection of his childhood and trying to come clean as a sinner trying to do right. The song serves a spiritual journey of a young man trying to save himself from going too far to the right.
Even though some of the interludes and skits can be a big annoying along with the somberness of the production value can be waning at times. J Cole nevertheless proves that he’s his own artist and he’s not afraid of showcasing it either. He’s not trying to be the next Drake or Big Sean, He’s doing him which is why people are willing to hear his story and why he has a following. Fans of hip hop should pick this up!
Vic Rating: 8.5 outta 10(Due to the additional tracks from the Deluxe version)