“It’s way darker this time.”
Right off top, the album opens with slave field chants, a fury beat and a classic Notorious B.I.G sample. At that moment, that very moment 1:00 in, you know it’s gonna be THAT type of album. You’re smiling, thinking, “Damn, this is what I’m talking about!” “Villuminati”, J. Cole’s Born Sinner album intro is a 5 minute lashing of Cole’s lyrical prowess and boldness. With lyrics like “Pac had me screaming fuck Jay” and “My verbal AK slaying faggots” and “My pops was club hopping back when Rick James was out, and all I get is Trinidad James” shows J. Cole is ready to be the big, sometimes controversial topic at hand in rap society. At that was just in the first five minutes of this sick ass album.
Just like Kanye in previous years, J. Cole is proving that he too can find the illest samples and revamp the tracks into new classics. Case in point, “LAnd of the Snakes.” Cole describes the song as being about his move with 10 of his friends to a 3 bedroom house in Los Angeles (where he recorded this album), and the highs and lows of L.A., land of the snakes. Hence, the capital “LA” in its title. The sample we’re speaking on is Outkast’s “Da Art of Storytelling pt. 1” which is taken from their Aquemini album. This song begins a recurring theme throughout the album: people wanting Cole now; the same people that didn’t want him before. It’s all about how his life has changed. Not only the people around him and how they have changed, but how he has changed. On songs like “Chaining Day,” Cole raps about how he spent all his “first money” on a expensive chain, instead of buying his mother a house, and how ashamed he is of his materialistic ways. Very deep stuff coming from the North Carolina raised rapper.
“Look at me, pathetic nigga, this chain that I bought.
You mix greed, pain and fame, this is heinous result.
Let these words be the colors I’m just paintin my heart.
I’m knee deep in the game and it ain’t what I thought.”
“Trouble” is one of our favorites from the album. It’s so sinister, so bold, so dope. The way the beat drops after Cole recites that initial hook, beast. This track is really one of those that shows how far he’s come as a producer; these new producer niggas not touching this. Tracks like these are what make Cole a legend-in-the-making. After this track, the album takes a smooth transition with “Runaway.” “Runaway” is another lyrical journey, this time J. Cole narrating his story about being scared of settling down and being good to his girl. He raps about how he’d rather be in the streets with “real niggas” and real strippers even though he should be with his girl who’s waiting at home: a tale all too familiar to alot of men out here: running away from what’s important because you’re scared. Honestly, name another rapper relaying messages like this? We’ll wait…
“Forbidden Fruit” is one of those tracks that when we saw the tracklisting, we couldn’t wait to hear, as Kendrick and Cole have been heavily hyping their soon-to-come collabo album, and this would give us the first taste as to what the pair of rap stars would deliver. What we weren’t expecting; however, was for the track to be another smooth track, that only saw Kendrick on the hook. Sampling A Trible Called Quest’s “Electric Relaxation” (which sampled Ronnie Foster’s “Mystic Brew”), Cole starts off the first verse talking about the story of Creation (Adam & Eve), before Kendrick delivers the all important catchy hook. Via Rap Genius, “J. Cole is speaking on Adam and Eve going to the Forbidden Garden and Eve took a bite of the Forbidden Fruit, the apple. J. Cole sees a women’s lips and is being provoked into something sinful, just like Eve provoked Adam and created sin by eating and sharing the apple.” Moral of the story: sins exists. “Bitches cheat (come and go), money gets spent, love gets lost.” The way these two took a Biblical story about the creation of life and turned it into a smooth ass hip hop joint about sin….it’s just genius.
“Aint That Some Shit” is the only uptempo moment on the entire album, and at this point it wasn’t even missed thanks to J. Cole lyrical assassination, but it’s sure as hell welcomed! The crazy Syience produced beat (the producer who also produced “2Face” & “I’m On It” for Cole) crashes into your speakers with a frenzy, and eager to join that frenzy is the 6 foot 3, former basketball player, Jermaine Cole. The flow gains a few miles per hour, and Cole proves he can deliver club bangers just as crazy as his fellow rappers, if he wanted to. But, he doesn’t. Which leads us to “Let Nas Down.”
“Let Nas Down.”Where do we being. The story behind this track is crazy, and we don’t really have time to break it all the way down. Long story short, J. Cole was pissed and depressed when Roc Nation wouldn’t release his debut album The Sideline Story because it had no strong radio singles. So he worked and shitty radio song after shitty radio songs until he finally came up with one he thought was catchy, and still super dope: “Work Out.” The song was released, and went on to go double platinum, but Nas, J. Cole’s idol and biggest inspiration (aside from Jay-Z & 2pac) hated the song. And that’s what inspired this record. It’s a really deep record which once again sees Cole lay everything about his life on the table. He didn’t have to tell us about this. And he damn sure didn’t have to make a song about it. But he did. And he knew, since he was making a song about the time he let Nas down, he knew this song would have to be one of the best he’s ever made. But is it? Absolutely This is J. Cole’s “Big Brother.” The “Dirty Laundry” of Born Sinner.
“Yeah, long live the idols, may they never be your rivals.
Pac was like Jesus, Nas wrote the Bible.
Now what you’re ’bout to hear’s a tale of glory and sin.
No I.D. my mentor now let the story begin.”
The only two songs that truly sound like they were meant to be singles are the dark rap ballad, “Power Trip” and the inspirational, uplifting TLC-featured “Crooked Smile,” both of which are the singles from the album. The songs couldn’t be any different, with “Power Trip” representing the dark half of the album (and the dark “Gates To Heaven” album cover) and “Crooked Smile” representing the spirited side of the album (represented by the light “Devil with Horns” album cover). With the way “Power Trip” has dominated not only urban radio, but now also pop radio, it’ll be truly interesting to see what “Crooked Smile” does. It could really be one of those career defiinng moments for J. Cole if radio allows it to be. I mean, if “Power Trip” can get to the top 20 on the Billboard Hot 100, and “Work Out” almost top 10 I don’t see why this can’t break through that threshold. Hopefully this track gets the promotion it deserves for, where rap is right now, we need someone delivering positive messages and inspiration to the youth. NO ONE is doing that now, and I don’t think there could be a more better person to do it, than J. Cole.
This is the anti molly rap album. Aside from “Power Trip” and “Crooked Smile,” none of the records were made for radio. The only track that even resembles a club banger is the “Ain’t That Some Shit” interlude. Cole completely disregarded all the bottle/Molly popping trends of 2012/13 rap and created his own, soulful, introspective rap lane. He’s laying all of his demons out on the table, ready for the World to examine. It’s the debut album he dreamed of having. It’s Cole’s journey to hell and back, being at the bottom while being on top, then finding peace. We didn’t even touch on tracks like “Rich Niggaz” and “Born Sinner” featuring James Fauntleroy, both of which are home runs, because album is THAT good. Every track serves its purpose.
One of the most impressive things about this album, aside from the vicious lyrical ability that Cole showed, is the production, all of which made by J. Cole himself. The fact that this album 95% of it was by by him, is absolutely incredible. Especially in today’s world where even Kanye West has a team of people helping write and producing beats for him. Absolute amazing feat for J. Cole. More money for him, too! None of the new age rappers can say that they produce all of their own shit, and produced this quality of music. Aside from Drake and Kendrick (both of which don’t touch Cole producer-wise), no one is close to being able to deliver such raw energy and passion in their songs, and make them relatable, without having to talk about doing drugs and fucking girls. You can’t help but respect what Cole does with his music, and what he has done with this album. Will he can some love from the Grammy Committee? That’s tough because Jay-Z, Kanye, and Kendrick are already shoe-ins. And if Eminem and Drake both get there albums out before that Grammy deadline, the rap categories will be so stacked. Does J. Cole deserve, for the worked he just presented? Ab-so-fucking-lutely!
Standout Tracks: “Trouble” , “Villuminati” , “Let Nas Down” , “Power Trip” , “Crooked Smile” , “Forbidden Fruit” , “Ain’t That Some Shit”
Could’ve Done Without: …….