“I’mma drop the album same day as Kanye just to show the boys the man now like Wanya.” And this is exactly what rising hip-hop star J. Cole did on June 18th when he released the highly anticipated album, Born Sinner. A sequel to his debut album, Cole World: The Sideline Story, Cole delves further into his dark past and paints an emotional picture of his struggle to succeed and overcome challenges with his music, relationships, and identity.
This sophomore album has a Warm Up feel with the emotional complexity of Friday Night Lights. From beginning to end, as with all of his work, Cole tells a story and utilizes his unmatched skills as a lyricist to depict his life experiences. “Villumanti” makes a strong statement to open the album as the references to Cole’s predecessor and biggest mentor Jay-Z aka “Hov” are the heart of the track. He repeats “Sometimes I brag like Hov” summing up Cole’s success and how far he has come since initially handing Jay-Z a copy of his original mixtape years ago.
Possibly the strongest track from the album, “Crooked Smile” featuring TLC was said by Cole himself to be “the most difficult song to write/produce to date.” The hook, instrumentals, and lyrics are all spot on and really exemplify Cole’s story of perseverance. It’s uplifting and catchy, bringing in TLC was an interesting move that definitely paid off, overall one of the best songs of his career.
The various interludes and skits tie the entire album together giving Born Sinner a solid flow and transitional purpose from track to track.
One of the most personal and deep tracks of the album, “Let Nas Down” explains Cole’s relationship with fellow rapper and legend, Nas. The track describes Nas as Cole’s idol and inspiration growing up and how the release of Cole’s most popular track, “Work Out” literally let Nas down. Cole’s lyrics are heartfelt and reveal a lot about his character and commitment to being the best. Interestingly enough Nas released a remix to this very track just days after the album was released. Check it here:
Arguably the most popular song off the album, “Power Trip” featuring Miguel topped charts as a hit single. This track brings together all of Cole’s strengths and demonstrates his ability to sing, which before was maybe in question (watch out Drake). If you have been a Cole fan prior to his first album this song is unofficially an extension of the track “Dreams” featuring Brandon Hines off The Warm Up mixtape. Listen here:
Cole instills a sincere emotional investment in this particular album as he produced 100% of the tracks himself and has very few featured artists. Overall he makes a statement that he is here and here to stay. This decade has already surpassed the previous in terms of the Hip-Hop game and its artists like Cole that are leading the way and providing hope and promise for years to come. Be sure to check out Born Sinner, and watch for the Grammy nomination for Album of the Year.
Let Nas Down
Disagree with my review? Want to talk Cole? Hit me on Twitter @Wrobbieh
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