J. Cole is rapidly emerging as one of the enduring talents that hip-hop has to offer. His latest: Born Sinner. On his sophomore release, we find Cole World in his ever expanding lane. Straight up, Born Sinner is a hip-hop album that has the potential to enter the popular side of life. Clearly, the North Carolina native isn’t gunning for every Becky and Brad to fall in love with his music, but if they want to come, its all the better. Once again, this is a hip-hop album.
Songs like “Power Trip (with Miguel),” “She Knows,” and “Forbidden Fruit (with Kendrick Lamar)” delve into the complexities of a young man’s relationships. Cole sounds like a natural with his song writing, something that often escaped the rappers he came up on. They were prone to braggadocios raps. Still, Cole – like Kendrick – has an inter-generational quality that often escapes most rappers out now.
Born Sinner is very, very good and could emerge as a classic album, as time rolls on. J. Cole oversaw the production on the album and he takes care of himself. He manages to diversify beats and present songs as intricate tales. Songs like “Miss America” and “N***az Know” break the mold with a more abrasive texture than the rest of Born Sinner. Even 50 Cent pops up on the deluxe version of the album.
“Let Nas Down,” is one moment on Born Sinner that this writer didn’t particularly like (but admits most people do). Cole acts as if Nas is his pops or something! But, the song is dope, albeit a bit too respectful for a future legend purporting to have a sinner side. So, the song is cool, yet a bit disappointing. Such is the duality of Born Sinner. Cole’s idolatry is evident throughout.
The only drawback seems that Cole at times comes off as if he’s trying to be a bad boy, unlike Chief Keef who really seems to be the genuine article. So, he feels like good guy that got caught up here and there and wrote songs about it. But, this is a granular observation. Born Sinner is a road map for a generation. Cole offers the meaty content people scream they want on the radio and in their iPods. He also offers a measure of maturity that does resemble his heroes like Nas, even though some of it feels like he’s a student trying to be the master yet. At 21 tracks (including interludes), Born Sinner should offer enough music to last fans for quite some time. No sins here – just another era in hip-hop being born again.
Album Cohesiveness –7/10
Replay value –8/10
Personal Favorite Tracks: “Miss America,” “Forbidden Fruit,” “N***az Know”