Since deciding to move the release date of his album to June 18th, in direct competition with Kanye West’s “Yeezus” project, many wondered if J.Cole could create an album as good as, or even better than, one of his idols. The St. John’s Alum, answers all these questions and more on his sophomore effort “Born Sinner.”
On his last album, Cole was just a young college educated man trying to find his way through life and place in the rap game. This time around, we hear a more mature J. Cole. One who is caught between trying to stay true to himself and becoming what he despises most. As he notes on the title track “Born Sinner,” —“Yeah, this music shit is a gift. But God help us make it cause this music business is a cliff.”
Lyrically, we don’t get the same witty wordplay he gave us on “Sideline Story,” but he still shows his unique ability to create vivid pictures with his words. He displays this particular talent greatly on the track “Trouble,” spitting, “Yeah, God flow, Paint a picture like a young Pablo, Picasso/Niggas say I live fast, die young, so I drive slow and pray I die old.”
Sonically, Cole shows his progress as an artist and a producer by finding the perfect connection between his lyrics and production— a balance he struggled to find on his last album. He makes a bold statement with “Born Sinner,” as he attempt to show rap’s elite that he belongs in their circle. But, instead of coming off conceited, he respectively praises his idols and lets his work speak for itself. He proclaims, “Long live the idols, may they never be your rivals, Pac was like Jesus, Nas wrote the bible,” on the inspiring “Let Nas Down,” one of standout tracks of the 20-song project.
If other artists could learn to express their sins through music like Cole, then his vision of going to hell to resurrect Hip Hop may come to fruition. For what it’s worth, I hope Cole continues to sin musically and let us deeper into the psyche of one of the game’s most promising young artists. Maybe then fans will start to compare other artists to him instead of comparing him to his peers and predecessors.