Review Summary: A gem of an album that captures an artist coming of age with some honest, fantastically written hip hop tunes only slightly marred by the occasional dull instrumental
J. Cole has been the subject of much talk since the release of his debut studio album, with many people stating him to be an artist who possesses a lot of talent but appears to be holding back for some reason. His first two studio releases both felt refreshing and tightly produced, but just didn't stand out all that much among the rest of the modern hip hop community. However, a fanfare was made when it was announced that 2013 would herald the return of this current limelight-dwelling rapper, and when it was released, it showcased Cole at his absolute peak to date.
Put simply, Born Sinner is an album that shows off all the talent that the last two albums felt like he was keeping back from the public eye. Album opener Villuminati kicks things off in stellar fashion, with a confident flow and some rather tightly constructed verses laid neatly over the top of a fantastic beat and some cool sampling of Notorious B.I.G's mega-hit song Juicy. This is a ferocious, savage track that gets right in the listener's face and pounds away with bar after bar of slightly arrogant but masterfully crafted lyricism that beats away at any doubt left in your mind about J. Cole. From here on out, this album is a highly consistent, very rewarding listen that continually showcases an artist who has finally come of age.
LAnd Of The Snakes continues on from where Villuminati left off, and is another well structured song, with some brilliant verses that show Cole one of the best in the game at the minute. Throughout this release he raps about a variety of topics in a very intelligent way, using more metaphors than one can shake a broom at whilst calving through a seemingly never-ending dictionary at a gut-wrenching pace. One startling thing about this album is how violently he raps, never afraid to throw out a few shocking statements here, including openly promoting homophobia on the very first track. This is something that sets him apart from the overly commercialized styling of artists such as Drake, and if words are weapons then Mr. Cole's native tongue is guns and knives.
This is an album that continues to show the results of having blood, sweat and tears poured into it from cover to cover. Each one of these tracks is lovingly crafted, Rich Niggaz standing out as arguably the strongest work here. On this track, Cole is firing on all cylinders, providing a tight rap song that is both accessible and very intricately written. One minor problem that can be found in this release is the fact that at times the instrumentals are not close to being as strong as Cole's lyrical attacks are, which is sad to hear, particularly toward the back part of the album. However, even on these weaker beats, Cole excels and makes them listenable once again.
J Cole's 2013 outing Born Sinner is an album that shines from cover to cover, showcasing an artist going against the grain of bad rappers in today's mainstream hip hop scene, and he has produced a gem with this release.