J. Cole-Born Sinner [review]

"It's way darker this time"


“It’s way darker this time” says Jermaine.

Instantly listeners everywhere plug in their night lights in preparation for 59 minutes of slumber. Rest assured, it won’t be needed this time. Born Sinner is on a totally different level than its predecessor Cole World: The Sideline Story. On this album it’s quite apparent that he has taken the training wheels off and is now in the game, figuratively speaking.

If you were expecting this album to open with a Biggie sample and more specifically, THAT Biggie sample (see title) then guess what? You are correct! The album opens with Villuminati which…no..don’t do it..stay with me…

Ok…I admit I know I lost some of you when you heard Jermaine harmonize “Sometimes I brag like Hov” but I promise that it gets better from here on out. After an Intro with cringe-worthy lyrics (he uses his whack rhyme allotment on the intro) and a Kerney Thomas  skit, we arrive at “Land of the Snakes”, a track that has a very familiar sample.

Like very familiar.

Very, very familiar.

Eerily identical to maybe one of the most popular songs by one of the most popular groups of the 90s.

No spoiler here, but once you get over the fact that he samples “Da Art of Storytelling”, then “Land of the Snakes” is quite an enjoyable song. As the pace of this spacey, uptempo, Outkast-esque beat slows down, Cole tells the story of a girl who he hasn’t seen since college. No coincidence that this blends right into “Power Trip”, which is a song about a girl. Well, not exactly…Take a listen to “Dreams” from The Warm-Up

This is the girl who J. Cole has been chasing  since 2009. Fame. And that is what this album is about, his struggles with life after getting the girl of his dreams. This album shines on tracks such as “Trouble” and “Rich Niggaz” because unlike the first album, he’s exited his comfort zone with production. These instrumentals are dark and help form the landscape for this album. While Cole has always been a good lyricist, he also raises the bar in this area too. My main problem with Cole World was the laziness in his delivery. On this album, he often switches his inflection and flow, giving each track life. He’s way more personal on this album and you can finally hear it in his voice.

Where this album falls flat is its lack on continuity. “She Knows” sticks out like a sore thumb between “Runaway” and “Rich Niggaz” and isn’t even really needed. Jermaine then channels his inner Scott Storch from the 90s (not a compliment) for “Ain’t That Some Shit (Interlude)” which is sure to be your most skipped track of the album. “Let Nas Down” is a track that was good in theory but falls short in execution. Never did I think Kanye’s “Big Brother” would be surpassed on the bromantic scale.

Overall, Born Sinner is a very solid album. He takes risks this time around and didn’t let Shawn Corey hovering over his shoulder influence his vision. Sure there’s a few failures but he passes the test for its majority. J. Cole isn’t just Jermaine from the Ville who still has loans to pay off, he’s now evolved into a well-rounded artist with a story to tell. And that’s all we wanted.

Final Grade: 4-5



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