It’s way darker this time around.
The first words uttered by Jermaine
Cole on sophomore effort “Born
Sinner” seem to encapsulate the
entire album. J. Cole’s “Born
Sinner” has been one of the more
highly anticipated albums of 2013.
Despite this, the Fayetteville rapper
finds himself in an interesting
situation – while many regard him
as one of the best lyricists in the
game and at one point the second
coming of Tupac, others are ready
to press “Skip” and write him off as
having fallen off.
Last year J. Cole released his debut
album “Cole World: The Sideline
Story” with an impressive first week
of 218,000 units sold despite his
label not feeling confident about
the project. Many wondered
whether he could take the next
step and solidify himself as not just
one of the greats in hip-hop, but as
an artist who’s here to stay with his
next album.
We now stand with the physical
product that is “Born Sinner”. A
dark, twisting maze of stories of
despair and sorrow intertwined
with glimpses of hope and the
future. Cole lets us into a dark
world many of us never expected
and really shows the struggles he
endured even after being signed by
Jay-Z.
The project starts off with
“Villuminati”, a record as
braggadocio as J. Cole has ever
been, as he repeats “Sometimes I
brag like Hov”. Cole sets the tone
of the album immediately,
acknowledging all those who
criticized him with no holds
barred. It’s evident his flow and
rhyme scheme didn’t get dusty in
his time off as he raps:

Couple more A’s I woulda been a
Summa Cum Laude/

Beyonce told me she wanted to buy
a new Bugatti/

That shit is worth more than me I
think she knew it probably/

Awkward…awkward…want to know
what else is really awkward?/

N****s buying rings for bitches I
had flings with/

I hope I don’t see em at the
Oscar’s

Another standout track is “Land of
the Snakes” as J. Cole raps about
the dark side of the dreamy
celebrity nightlife everyone wants
to be a part of. He turns you into a
fly on the wall as you listen to
stories of the temptation of
resisting women because he’s in a
relationship and how other friends
warn him of the evil that many
don’t see.
Then comes “Power Trip”, the
standout single featuring Miguel
which has been all over the radio.
J. Cole’s features are few and far
between on this project yet Miguel
couldn’t have done a better job on
the hook. “Power Trip” is not the
project’s biggest radio song, it also
served as a song for the females.
Following “Power Trip” arrives “Mo
Money”, an interlude that really
exemplifies the genius of J. Cole.
Instead of creating a typical skit or
talking as an interlude, J. Cole
created a story of the drive for
money and ended every line with
the same word: MONEY. Not only
was the interlude a humorous play
on society and money, J. Cole had
the skill to end every sentence with
the same word and still make the
words before it rhyme in a
cohesive manner.
Another standout track on the
project is the uptempo “She
knows”. The bass intertwined with
the catchy “Oh ahhh ahhh” makes
this a perfect choice for the car. J.
Cole raps about the temptations of
females despite having a girlfriend.
He explains that no matter how
secretive these other girls may be,
the girlfriend always knows:

“This is Martin Luther King in the
club/

Getting dubs, with a bad bitch in
his ear sayin that she down for
whatever/

But in the back of his min is
Coretta/

She knows…She knows… and I know
she knows…”

If this song doesn’t give you a clear
cut picture of how difficult it must
be to balance fame and all the
attention that comes with it, I
don’t know what will.
The next standout track is “Rich
Niggaz” where J. Cole describes his
attitude towards those with money.

“I hate rich niggaz, goddamnnit/

Cuz I ain’t ever had a lot dammnit/

Who you had to kill, who you had
to rob, who you had to fuck just to
make it to the top dammnit?”

He discusses those with “oil
money” and “coal money” and gives
insight into his jealousy of their
fortune. He discusses the hardships
he experienced during his
childhood and how many of those
could be solved with money.

Next comes “Forbidden Fruit
featuring Kendrick Lamar with
Lamar providing the simple
unassuming hook as Cole raps
about the relationship between him
and women.

“Crooked Smile”, another standout
track, was released about a week
before the album leaked. This track
provides a rare moment of hope as
Cole utilizes a soulful sample to
shed light on a mostly dark
project. He raps that despite having
a “crooked smile”, him and those
like him are still worth the picture.
Those without money are not
inferior and are still just as good as
those with wealth.

Now, here comes the one
everyone’s talking about. “Let Nas
Down”. I could write a whole
article on this song, however I’ll
try and contain my enthusiasm.
This song does so many things on
so many levels. Rarely do we see
(or hear) about such a high profile
artist be so open about him letting
down one of their idols. J. Cole
raps about Nas hearing his single
and being disappointed in it and
how his whole world shattered. In
one of the listening sessions that
took place in NYC, Cole explained
the process he went through to
find his single. He tells the story of
how he kept going to Jay-Z with
Who Dat”, “Can’t Get Enough”, and
then “Work Out” in an effort to find
his single. It wasn’t until “Work
Out” that Cole finally found it. The
brutal honesty of this song lets
everyone know that these artists
are just as vulnerable as we are and
suffer disappointment just like we
do.
While Born Sinner may have been a
bit darker than what everyone
expected, it certainly sheds light
onto a different side of Jermaine
Cole most of us have never seen
before. Now, with a successful first
album and a tremendous
sophomore effort that seems
poised to impact his legacy and his
place in hip-hop, maybe now we
can better answer the question of
whether J. Cole is here to stay.

by Mike

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