Review Summary: Coherence in the form of grandiose; J. Cole has finally achieved his potential.
Being a producer and rapper is an ambitious feat, and something rarely done with critical success. The RZA, Dr. Dre and most recently, Kanye West have all achieved critical acclaim as producers only to showcase their skills with a microphone in their hands as well. However, not everyone can be Kanye West or Madlib. There is a certain "it" factor that is needed, and. Cole has always shown potential of having "it", but it's been 5 years of never living up to it. He has always struggled with consistency pertaining to his identity as a rapper. The Warm Up showcased his talent and potential, but that was it. When Cole World dropped, the hope was for a focused, consistent album from start to finish; hopefully the potential would peak. Instead, it left us with the same disjointed taste as The Warm Up. Potential can take you only so far, and so was the case with J. Cole.
Born Sinner, however, throws everything I had come to believe in my face and calls me ignorant for giving up on J. Cole. That potential that I was ready to sign off about finally has come together to create a coherent, grand, second full length LP. The most spectacular aspect of this album is the realization that J. Cole grasps. All of the complaints that many had critiqued J. Cole about - consistency, identity, technicality - are gone here. Instead, this album is more of a coming-of-age album for J. Cole, from a Hip-Hop persona standpoint. His awareness for previous faults is quite astounding. Whereas many will continue down the same path that brought them money and fame, J. Cole actually branches out and corrects his faults. It called greatness, and its achieved on Born Sinner.
Foreshadowing, I suppose, towards what this album could possible achieve is exactly what the release date alludes to. Releasing on the same day as the most hyped album in music might not be the greatest idea sales wise, but it certainly says something. In fact, J. Cole was quoted saying, "I worked too hard to come a week later after Kanye West drops an amazing album." When your debut album goes gold, it isn't exactly David vs. Goliath in terms of releasing the same day as a monolith figure such as Mr. West, but it's the closest thing possible, so you better come guns loaded. J. Cole doesn't just come with guns load, they are firing full blast, and it's evident on the first track, "Villuminati." His flow is ferocious, the beat is gorgeously grandiose and fierce , and if you needed anymore allusions to greatness Cole throws a sample of Juicy by Notorious B.I.G. Cole is definitely aiming for his name to be included with the highest tiers of the rap game with this album.
An album this concise is something that has been missing from every prior J. Cole release. Grandeur has never been a problem for Cole, as his production has always been fantastic, but his flow/lyrics/tone has always left the listener wanting something more consistent to go along with the ear candy that the production brought. It's beautiful, really, that its finally been achieved here. Whether it's the attacking style of songs such as "Villuminati," "Trouble," and "Ain't That Some Shi
" or the emotional feel of "Rich Niggaz," "She Knows" and "Let Nas Down" every track feels cohesive and flows well together despite the different styles. And, oh man, "Let Nas Down" is one of the best Hip-Hop songs released this year. Based off Nas's criticism of J. Cole's hit, "Work Out" it truly a sincere song of J. Cole falling off to the money of the rap game instead of making songs that are real. From the constant jazz loop that sets the tone wonderfully to the lyrics that do an outstanding job of storytelling it is, simply put, phenomenal.
J. Cole knows he is taking a chance releasing this on the same date as Kanye West's "Yeezus." It's a chance that some might say is ill conceded. I say it's a statement and the claim it is making is that J. Cole is on the same level as the Kanye West's, Kendrick Lamar's and Nas's with Born Sinner. And you know what? There are 16 tracks worth of proof to back up his claim.