Team J. Cole Talk Us Through 'born Sinner'
J. Cole is increasingly being regarded as a saviour of hip-hop. Since his 2011 debut album, ‘Cole World: The Sideline Story’, rap fans from the streets to the industry have been waiting for Cole to prove that he is what the game has been missing the past few years. With ‘Born Sinner’ he has solidified his spot next to Kendrick Lamar as a ‘New Legend’, as twitter has come to refer to the top new-school rappers…
J. Cole’s subtle nods to iconic New York hip-hop add to the classic feel of the album and its imminent replay value. Interpolations, samples, and references to artists such as DMX, 50 Cent, Nas, Jay-Z, Biggie and the ever present Tupac influence in all of Cole’s music add to the lyrical quality of the project as well as aid Cole’s appeal to listeners who have been true hip-hop fans for years.
He even references his own past work on hit single ‘Power Trip’, exclaiming “Had a thing for you, even wrote the song ‘Dreams’ for you” and playing out the story of ‘Dreams’ in the tracks visuals. While honouring hip-hop’s past, Cole manages to look to the future as well, sampling an Elite and Bas collab track that has yet to drop on ‘Let Nas Down’.
The Roc Nation artist captivates his audience with the riveting entertaining and somewhat controversial opening track “Villuminati.” As Cole raps “Long live the idols, may they never be your rivals,” he gives light to his position in the game and his current struggles while introducing a new generation of rap fans to the “idols.”
Within a few minutes, J. Cole can "brag like Hov" and be humbled by Nas. Although the album lacks rap features, they aren't really missed until we are teased by Kendrick Lamar’s appearance on the A Tribe Called Quest influenced ‘Forbidden Fruit’. Kendrick sings but does not lend a verse, building anticipation for their collaborative album that we can expect in 2014 (five years after its first mention).
Young Simba demonstrates his growth as a producer and in his ability to combine his underground and mainstream strengths. He has demonstrated lyrical quality and relatable subject matter since his debut project ‘The Come Up’. Cole has now developed more of a skill in using the lyricism he has always possessed in a manner that can be more broadly received.
The album has a clear concept throughout. J. Cole uses his incredible story telling ability to weave tales of the sins that come with not only being a person in our current culture but also being a rap star. He touches on temptation, greed, lust, commitment issues, and the brutality of the industry all while maintaining an element of entertainment and wit.
As many fans may know, J. Cole is managed by Biggie’s former manager Mark Pitts. The ‘Juicy’ inspired album title as well as a few samples and lyrics throughout truly honor Notorious B.I.G. There are not too many artists who can put themselves on a track with Big and prove they belong there. Longtime fans may recall that leaked remix of J. Cole’s verse from Chedda Chapp’s 2006 track ‘Stars and Straps’ with Biggie’s ‘Can I Get Wit Ya?’
Cole’s playful punchlines held their own with those of the Brooklyn rap legend. Seven years later and Cole demonstrates his ability to compliment Biggie’s talent on some of his more serious tracks as well. ‘Villuminati’ and ‘N***** Know’ are must hear tracks for fans of Notorious B.I.G.
J. Cole’s mostly solo production is complemented by the co-production of Dreamville affiliate Elite as well as Jake One and Syience. Soulful beats throughout the album compliment Cole’s witty lyrics and his ability to seamlessly transition from one flow to the next. His unique use of samples adds to the depth of the project and makes this an album to be enjoyed for years to come. Trying to catch all of the intricate samples and references on one listen is impossible.
As a longtime fan, I loved ‘Cole World: The Sideline Story’, but its replay value has somewhat faded to just a few select tracks in my daily rotation. ‘Born Sinner’ on the other hand thus far has a classic sound and seems as though it will be an album I play straight through, with no need for the skip button for years to come.
Words: Katie (@TeamJColeNC)