J. Cole's 'Born Sinner' Album Review

J. Cole's 'Born Sinner' Album Review

Working to prevent the notorious sophomore curse from coming true, Born Sinner is a much edgier follow up to J. Cole’s 2011 debut Cole World: Sideline Story. While there’s a handful of vintage Cole here, Born Sinner mainly veers into previously uncharted territory for the 28-year old, who goes to great lengths to prove just how conflicted and complicated he is. 

Much of the album is an inner battle between his lust for the fast life and wanting something more stable and substantial. Tracks like ‘Trouble’, ‘Runaway’ and ‘She Knows’ all display his teetering emotions which can be sincerely felt through provocative beats and picture painting lyrics. Even Cole’s introductory proclamation on ‘Villuminati:’ “It’s way darker this time” feels like this North Carolina nice guy truly took a edgier approach to his craft.

One standout thing that really impressed me was the fact that Cole is the only one rapping on the album. Although the LP features TLC, Kendrick Lamar, Miguel and Fauntleroy, they only contribute to the choruses and hooks. He also produced each and everyone of the beats on the album. Not to say that there wasn’t a little help here and there from some industry experts, but Cole personally crafted every synth and snare. In an era where guest appearances and purchased beats come more frequently than solo songs, Cole makes a subtle statement that makes the listener know that his album is actually HIS album. French Montana can take notes…

Even though the emotional torn Cole is eveident here, Born Sinner’s best moments are when he embraces the persona that initially garnered him praise. Songs like ‘Power Trip’, ‘Crooked Smile’ and ‘Let Nas Down’ are the album’s strongest. They feel like the honest rapper who created The Warm Up opened up his heart even furhter confessing his true inner thoughts.

In close, J Cole exhibits the same level of excellence sonically and conceptually that fans had anticipated after hearing Cole’s early work. He remains too gifted lyrically, too keen of a storyteller, and too emotionally open for his sophomore LP to be anything less than impressive. It is still a Cole World after all…

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