Roc Nation, LLC
J. Cole’s not gonna take this underdog shit laying down. Period.
His debut, “Cole World: The Sideline Story” was good, but not good enough. It left some of his fans disappointed, but they still supported him because he gave them so much great music via his first mixtapes that you couldn’t help but support the guy. At the same time, what’s a young Jermaine to do? Fall back and lick his wounds, or fall back and sharpen his sword?
By the sounds of Born Sinner, Cole did the latter. Returning with a much darker album than the last. The set takes us through Cole’s mind as he tackles the typical topics: Love/sex, money, self-esteem, & acceptance as an artist. He comes out swinging with the gospel choir powered “Villematic.” and after jacking Outkast’s “The Art of Storytelling, Pt 1″ for the excellent “Land of the Snakes,” he hits a comfortable stride. The lead single, “Power Move (feat. Miguel) still sounds fresh. The first of several interludes, “Mo Money” should have been one more verse. Here, like elsewhere, Cole spits like a man determined to make an impact. The same goes for “Ain’t That Some Shit,” which finds Cole going in double time. “Trouble” brings the choir back to help with the backdrop. “Forbidden Fruit” samples the same track as Tribe’s “Electric Relaxation.” Kendrick Lamar bodies the hook, which is an exclamation point on Cole’s ability to put the right artists in the right place, and not just have them on a track for the hell of it. Other standouts include the TLC (yes, you read that right) featured “Crooked Smile.” In what I would guess should be an obvious single choice, Cole points out his own imperfections, but urges folks to embrace who they are and love themselves. The most talked about track here is “Let Nas Down,” penned after NO I.D. hit up Cole to tell him that Nas hated the single from his last album. Honest and candid, it’s easily the best track on the album. The title track comes at the end of the standard edition’s sequence, and it closes the opus on the right note.
Truth is, Cole is improving by leaps and bounds, and it shows on Born Sinner. He didn’t rely on a bunch of super-producers and a collaborators to fill his set with dope material. He pretty much went at it alone, and he actually kicks ass throughout. He’s slowly but surely carving out a lane that’s all his. That’s definitely commendable.