For whatever reason, when I think of J Cole, I think I’m in for the second coming of early Jay-Z or even early Kanye West. Not just because he’s signed to Roc Nation, but because his mixtape material from day one has been nothing short of epic. The praise many Hip-Hop fans have bestowed on the North Carolina native has been high and with his sophomore album, Born Sinner, Cole has his first real opportunity to live up to the hype after slipping up on his debut, Cole World: The Sideline Story. Sadly, Born Sinner isn’t worthy of much extensive praise either.
The album begins with “Villumanati,” a clever discussion on him not being part of any secret society, while setting the listener up for the type of metaphors and wordplay they can expect from Born Sinner. The opener is followed by the first of four interludes (far too many on a 16 track album).
By the time you reach “Land of the Snacks” at track 3, you begin to wonder if some of the tracks from Truly Yours would not have been of better use on this album, instead of ending up as freebies on someone’s Ipod shuffle. It’s not that the first two songs are bad, it’s that fans have come to expect more.
“Power Trip” comes in slot four, quickly helping to stop the bleeding. The more I listen to the dynamic story in the verses and the perfect sampling of soul that Miguel brings to the track, I can’t help but wonder why the track doesn’t have the same infectious impact that other recent Summer tracks have had. Give the same track to Drake and the streets would have already exhausted it.
“Trouble” and “She Knows” are quality records on the project, though they probably wouldn’t make great singles, they help Born Sinner stay afloat. Following the setup of his debut album, Cole decided to save his the best records for last.
There are too many times on Born Sinner where I feel like the producers have looked toward the formula of Sideline Story to stay away from disappointment. Problem is, The Sideline Story was pretty average. The aforementioned order, the fact that “Power Trip” can easily be replaced by “Can’t Get Enough,” which featured Trey Songz and then there’s the wasted special guest feature. On Cole World: The Sideline Story, anticipation for the the Jay-Z verse on “Mr. Nice Watch” was intense. And then when the listener got to “Mr. Nice Watch” they couldn’t help but wonder if Jay was to blame for the terrible concept and verse or if Cole was at fault for even putting the track on the album. This time around Kendrick Lamar is the special guest artist in question on “Forbidden Fruit.” After hearing it the listener won’t know whether to blame Cole for not giving Kendrick a verse, or if Kendrick should get the blame for coming up with the hook… whoever the culprit is, its a wasted collaboration and again, it could’ve been left on the cutting room floor.
Be thankful for the last three tracks on this project. “Crooked Smile” featuring TLC is an example of the talent Cole can bring to a track, lyrically, metaphorically and conceptually. TLC is just icing on the hook. On “Let Nas Down,” Cole continues to reach for his album’s plateau. The track may be the best since some of his work on The Come Up. The discussion he has on the song serves as reminder that he does understand the pressure upon him to be great, and it gives hope that one day he will fully live up to hype.
The title track, “Born Sinner” wraps the album up nicely, featuring an appearance from @Fauntleroy. Not sure what the deluxe edition/Truly Yours 3 has to offer, but for those that have the regular edition, the end makes you want to begin the project all over again, if for no reason but to make it to the end again. I honestly used to listen to Sideline Story in reverse order so that the rest of the album would grow on me. Listeners may have to do the same with Born Sinner.
Born Sinner receives a PAR
Also Check Out:
J Cole Truly Yours EP download