J. Cole’s Born Sinner
Sinner to Winner
J. Cole, the self-acclaimed born sinner (opposite of a winner) has finally dropped his highly anticipated sophomore album, Born Sinner. After receiving mixed reviews on his debut album, Cole World:The Sideline Story, Jermaine knew what time it was when recording this new album.
On the opening track, Villuminati, Cole spits rapidly over hard-hitting 808s and a powerful bass line. Starting off with the line “sometimes I brag like Hov,” he delivers the track from a rise-to-fame perspective. The song shows clear dedication to Cole dominating a track and approaching it with a vengeance. Although it does not strike as one of the more appealing tracks to the ear, it serves its purpose as a meaningful introduction.
Land of the Snakes transitions into a more traditional, soothing approach from Jermaine. There is an instant sense of comfortableness on this track, as Cole starts to address his take on the album’s title. “She said you ‘bout to miss church while she riding me, I like my Sundays with a cherry on top.” Here, Jermaine starts to address his personal battle between good and evil.
Next, on his lead single, Power Trip featuring Miguel, J. Cole discusses achieving fame after many years of hard work. He also finds a way of blending his success story with a love song, as he hits on all levels of personal growth. This song serves as the perfect track for radio play, and has already propelled much attention to the album as a whole.
On Trouble, Cole literally addresses his consistently finding trouble along the path to success. Here, Jermaine comes off as witty, and drops clever punch lines like “everybody sweat her like Catholic school.” Although the hook on this song grows repetitive and a bit obnoxious over time, he delivers the verses eloquently over the self-produced cut.
Runaway discusses J. Cole not being ready to truly satisfy a good woman’s needs at this point in his life. He talks about his inability to be trusted by others in addition to his inability to trust himself. This cynical approach features lines such as “in this life ain’t no happy endings/ only pure beginnings followed by years of sinning and fake repentance.” He also addresses how a good man should act with wishful lines like “when you’re no longer Superman, at least you know you got Lois Lane.”
The next track, She Knows featuring Amber Coffman, addresses a woman being able to tell when an already-taken man approaches her. Cole’s using deep and dark piano keys make this song enchanting and powerful from the start. Immediately, the melody grabs you in and does not let you go at any point throughout the cut.
On Rich N****z, J. Cole discusses his hatred and jealousy toward the wealthy that he had felt along his struggle of a journey to success. This is one of the albums’ standouts in terms of lyrical content, as it comes from the perspective of an angrier, less mature Jermaine. His honesty outweighs his animosity though, and the track is quite appealing and extremely listenable.
The song, Forbidden Fruit featuring Kendrick Lamar, showcases Jermaine rapping around an “Adam and Eve” metaphor. On the track, Cole discusses temptation and the difficulties in saying ‘no’ at times. “Me and my bitch, took a little trip, down to the garden, took a little dip, apple juice falling from her lips, took a little sip.”
Chaining Day plays on the metaphor between slavery and buying jewelry. It also addresses the cliché rapper’s need to place gold around his neck as soon as he makes it in the hip-hop world. “Ice on this white Jesus seem a little unholy, the real strange things about this iced out Rolly.”
The second single from the album, Crooked Smile featuring TLC, features Cole giving his take on TLC’s smash hit from way back in the day, Unpretty. This traditional sounding hip-hop anthem has Jermaine speaking on his crooked teeth and thick eyebrows, explaining that you can still be beautiful without being perfect. The song literally attacks the more cliché Hollywood approach of looking like the ideal celebrity.
On the real rap fan’s likely favorite from the album, Let Nas Down, Cole speaks on how he actually did let Nas down with his debut album. Hip-hop legend, Nas, had spoken openly in the past about his distaste for Jermaine’s Cole World album. This was after Nas had initially said he was a fan of J. Cole. Cole tries to redeem himself with this track, and I feel that it is safe to say that he does.
The final track on the album receives the album title itself, Born Sinner. James Fauntelroy provides the melodic R&B styled hook, and the track serves as a nice conclusion to the album. It successfully wraps up the album’s content and overall message. Cole spills out his heart for the final time, and does so with utmost honesty and shamelessness.
At the end of the listen, J. Cole’s Born Sinner album delivers as a well-developed sophomore approach. Although it may not be the classic that rap fans have been waiting for from Jermaine, it definitely shows his progress in the game. He has grown with both maturity and skill, and has been able to project his image meaningfully over much of his own production. I would hope that Cole looks to work with a wider variety of producers in the future though, in an effort to expand his overall sound even further. It will be interesting to see where J. Cole goes from here, but as of now he seems to be going nowhere but up.
RRR Score: 8/10