Review Summary: More than just an outstanding producer? We'll have to wait to find out.
J. Cole has always been that tale of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hide. It's impossible to call him bad, yet it's so difficult to say he is great. He has a wonderful ear for production; that much has always been true. Where he lacks is his identity. It seems like he is struggling to find out who he is as a rapper. At one moment he is the braggadocio, money-clothes-hoes rapper who is teaming up with 2chains on the track, "Chris Tucker," and then the next he is defending his race like Mr. West on tracks like "Kenny Lofton." Where he really shines, as a lyrical artist, is when he summons his inner Drake. When he becomes that down-on-his-luck, "I need something more" sincere performer is when he really catches the ear. It's down to Earth, relatable material. Its human, and its exactly the type of material that J. Cole should stick to.
As a EP, you normally wouldn't find a gem, but the song "Cousins" is outstanding and one of the best hip hop songs released this year. Telling the story of how two cousins who were once close, but they couldn't be any farther apart now. Without going to into detail of what the song enthralls, it is an amazing testament of emotion through storytelling. It also forces the question of "What if?" with J. Cole. What if he could put this much emotion and effort into all his songs? It's a question that seems to come up every time I listen to a new J. Cole release.
In the end, it's basically the same old story with J. Cole. Your ears receive fantastic production and further proof that J. Cole is allowed to be in discussion with the best producers in the game, but he still doesn't give any proof as to how good he is as a rapper. Consistently beautiful, yet woefully inconsistent is the name of J. Cole's game. Let's just hope Born Sinner is more Dr. Jekyll and less Mr. Hide.