J. Cole
Born Sinner


3.0
good

Review

by Aziz STAFF
June 18th, 2013 | 52 replies


Release Date: 06/18/2013 | Tracklist

Review Summary: "Yo j coles album is like boringly good"

J. Cole certainly seems to be in an enviable position in the current realm of hip-hop. He’s proven on releases like The Warm Up, his outstanding 2009 mixtape, that he has the chops to go bar for lyrical bar with some of the upper echelon rhymers in the game, and with his debut album Cole World: The Sideline Story, he showed that he has just as much (if not more, given the level of hyperbole that his talent is apt to receive) mainstream appeal. Furthermore, he’s slated to release a collaborative album with rap’s favorite godson, Kendrick Lamar. And now, he shows that he has the stones to challenge Kanye West by releasing his album (which, I might add, has a song boldly titled “Runaway”) on the same day “just to show the boy’s the man now like Wanya”. So yeah, it’s not unreasonable to muse that with some good music Cole could rise to be hip-hop’s next obsession (again). But despite proclaiming himself the “man”, J. Cole hasn’t really grown up much at all; he’s still rapping about the struggle of being a light skinned rapper and his obsession with fucking everything that smiles at him, and worst of all his music is, as always, so very safe – perhaps he feels a pressure to make radio hits because his “worst fear [is] going broke ‘cause [he’s] bad with money,” or maybe because his talent has deluded him the same way it’s duped us: into thinking that he actually has a classic album in him. And yeah that sounds harsh but let’s be clear, J. Cole showed the world that he’s capable of being a top tier rapper, but Born Sinner is not the incredible album J. Cole needs. It boasts only a few standout tracks (but just as many duds) and while it’s still a better album than Cole World in every way, it’s riddled with flaws, the most glaring of which is it continually taunts us with J. Cole’s obvious talent but it refuses to ever display it for longer than just a few bars.

The album opens with immediate highlight “Villuminati,” sporting the best real beat on the album, a murky atmosphere peppered with sharp drums and a “Juicy” sample. J. Cole “brag[s] like Hov” with some of his most cohesive rhyme schemes and effortless flow to date, and despite some left field homophobia (“Just a little joke to show you how homophobic you are /and who can blame you”), “Villuminati” comes out as a great start to an album that slowly falls off. Lyrically, J. Cole has stepped his game up in several respects; one of his greatest liabilities in the past was that his rhyme schemes were far too basic to be interesting, and he made up for that by having exciting storytelling (“Lost Ones”, “Dollar and a Dream”) and lively content in his raps. But on Born Sinner, his lyrics are much the opposite – his content becomes quickly tiresome, but while he still has trouble venturing beyond the realm of simple rhyme schemes, he weaves them much more cleverly into his music, working them into quick and fluent flows so that they sound incredible and don’t seem as basic as they really are (the “Rich Niggaz” couplets of “I took a trip down memory lane/ And watching little Jermaine do his thang before he made a name” and “Probably kill for another claim to fame, my brain the same/ Yeah nigga, at least he ain’t insane” are perfect examples of this) – it’s these flashes of musical brilliance that give us hope, but they are so few and far between that they can’t make up for some of the poor decisions he makes.

In terms of beat selection, for the most part J. Cole’s beats are on point. The murky synths of “Trouble” ebb and flow through a grandiose choral sample as Cole again makes the most of his simple rhyme schemes (“Gettin’ to the Promised Land, you don’t want problems, I promise man”). There are a few missteps in terms of beats: “She Knows”, “Chaining Day”, and “Crooked Smile” – which is far and away the most insipid song on the album – are all monotonous beats which are unable to veil the dribble J. Cole spouts. But the worst decision J. Cole made was choosing to use the classic Outkast and A Tribe Called Quest beats of “Da Art of Storytellin Pt. I” and “Electric Relaxation”; it’s cool that Jay-Z shelled out for the beats but the fundamental issue with getting these tracks is that Born Sinner isn’t a mixtape; the appeal of spitting over classic beats on a mixtape is evident: you want to showcase your skills and give listeners something that they know as the backdrop for your lyrics, but to use the beats on an official album says that you want your iteration of the song to challenge the original, and J. Cole’s songs are not even close to strong enough to even get in the ring. Essentially, J. Cole’s selection of those beats automatically means that two songs on the album are completely forgettable (furthermore, Kendrick Lamar, who doesn’t even have a verse on “Electric Relaxation” still renegades thanks to his incredible gift for hooks). Ultimately, Born Sinner is simply a good album; there are few standout tracks and the desire to recreate Take Care via darker tones and obsession with his sexual conquests becomes tedious after a while, but fortunately, where Cole World had an abundance of asinine lines in each song (“I love it when you give me heeeeeeead, I hate it when you give me headaches”), Born Sinner is tightened up lyrically, and when J. Cole is rapping for real (“Villuminati”, “Rich Niggaz”, “Ain’t That Some Shit”, even “Let Nas Down” despite the theme of the song being corny by nature), he gives us every reason to keep believing in him. Maybe his next album will deliver on the expectations, but Born Sinner isn’t the “real” hip-hop that everyone has been clamoring for; it’s just a great mainstream album that caters to everyone who isn’t going to buy Yeezus.



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user ratings (160)
Chart.
3.2
good
other reviews of this album
trainofconsequence (4)
A gem of an album that captures an artist coming of age with some honest, fantastically written hip ...

Seth Barry-Hinton (3.5)
...

Guzzo CONTRIBUTOR (4.5)
Coherence in the form of grandiose; J. Cole has finally achieved his potential....


Comments:Add a Comment 
GnarlyShillelagh
Staff Reviewer
June 18th 2013


6188 Comments

Album Rating: 3.1

summary is a text i got from a friend and it's the most accurate way i've found to describe this
album.

album's like a 3.2-3.3 realistically but the review was pretty harsh so i put it at a 3.

Ire
June 18th 2013


41820 Comments


yeezus

GnarlyShillelagh
Staff Reviewer
June 18th 2013


6188 Comments

Album Rating: 3.1

need to edit this a little i think

maybe i will after i get some food

yeezus

Guzzo10
Contributing Reviewer
June 18th 2013


1069 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Damnnn the intro and conclusion paragraphs are some big ass blocks.

avnrdragon
June 19th 2013


20 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

Born Pillow.. sorry I was trying to be funny

RosaParks
June 19th 2013


14953 Comments


i bet this sucks

GnarlyShillelagh
Staff Reviewer
June 19th 2013


6188 Comments

Album Rating: 3.1

eh it's not actually that bad

he's a good rapper he's just a bad musician

loveisamixtape
June 19th 2013


6232 Comments


really great review! never understood the hype

GnarlyShillelagh
Staff Reviewer
June 19th 2013


6188 Comments

Album Rating: 3.1

thanks man, appreciate it!

yeah idk this album gets worse the more i listen to it i think

LosAngelesrules
June 20th 2013


4 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

This was ok. I really like "Let Nas Down" and there are some other decent songs, but overall I was pretty disappointed.

At least this was a big improvement from his last album, which I actively despised.

Trebor.
Contributing Reviewer
June 20th 2013


50850 Comments


Who the fuck is j cole and why do people care

Every comment on needle drop is hey review j cole and mac miller and I'm like wtf

Digging: Bobby Barnett - Little Wounds

EaglesBecomeVultures
June 20th 2013


5268 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

god, shut up

Digging: Dean Blunt - Black Metal

GnarlyShillelagh
Staff Reviewer
June 20th 2013


6188 Comments

Album Rating: 3.1

yeah last album was pretty disappointing

treb not sure if you're serious but he's just a rap nigga who dropped a pretty great mixtape a number of years ago called the warm up. has a lot of potential but so far both of his albums haven't delivered.

andrianoc
June 21st 2013


108 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

"Doesn't sound like death grips, gonna rate it a 3.0"

Digging: The Ghost Inside - Dear Youth

Cygnatti
June 21st 2013


21837 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

good because death grips is a 2.0

Digging: Autechre - Chiastic Slide

GnarlyShillelagh
Staff Reviewer
June 21st 2013


6188 Comments

Album Rating: 3.1

I would rate you a 1.5 adrian what a stupid comment

EaglesBecomeVultures
June 21st 2013


5268 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

lol 4.5

oltnabrick
June 21st 2013


31280 Comments


Tbh it's a 2-2.5

Digging: Michael Pisaro - Continuum Unbound

Cygnatti
June 21st 2013


21837 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

oltan's right

andrianoc
June 21st 2013


108 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Mother fuckers just don't like this cus he's a big name in the hip hop game. The dude's flow is insane, lyricism is insane, his messages are insane. The beats are so-so but he has so many other weapons. Fuck the haters



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