J. Cole is a rather interesting case on a few levels. After the release of two VERY GOOD mixtapes in the form of 2009's "The Warm Up" and 2010's "Friday Night Lights", the latter of which could've very well been an album, all eyes were on his solo debut, "Cole World: The Sideline Story", which was released on September 27, 2011. I'll admit, I anticipated the album quite a bit and looked forward to copping it. Although I did, after listening to it once or twice, outside of a few songs, I wasn't impressed. This is/was no knock on J. Cole, but I felt something was missing after he delivered so well on the two aforementioned mixtapes. I felt he was changing up his entire flow for the sake of sales and mainstream acceptance, which he did receive (the debut album is certified Gold). So, after the release of some additional material (two versions of his "Truly Yours" mixtape were released this year), as well as some respectable production credits to his name, we arrive at the release of his heavily anticipated sophomore album, "Born Sinner". Even though I only listened to his debut once or twice, we'll see how this one compares.
All songs produced by J. Cole
Clocking in at 5:08, this was a hell of an opener. Over a self produced track, coupled with nods to Jay-Z and the late great Notorious BIG, Cole wastes NO time with this opening statement, which he's basically saying he's here to stay. 4.5 out of 5
2. Kerney Sermon (Skit)
3. Land Of The Snakes
Although this is a "female" song for all intents and purposes, not only does it have the all too familiar "keep your eyes on your enemies" story arc, but it's quite good honestly. Also, this beat sampled a popular Outkast song quite well, and PLEASE forgive me for not being able to think of the name of that song off the top of my head, lol. 3.5 out of 5
4. Power Trip (featuring Miguel)
Well, if you see a Miguel feature on a hip hop album these days, you should automatically know what type of song it's going to be. The story about the crush, that's what you get here. A "love song" indeed. 3 out of 5
5. Mo Money (Interlude)
A fairly dope interlude, as Cole flips the word "money" to very good results. Should've been a song if you ask me.
I like the idea regarding this song, but man, if only he can tone down the "women talk". I'm not hating, but seriously, that disrupts what's otherwise a decent song. 3 out of 5
Cole gets in a few comments on the women side again, but it doesn't interrupt the vibe of this song like it did on the previous one. Details of life situations, manifested in terms of "running away". I feel I get where he's coming from this. 3.5 out of 5
8. She Knows (featuring Amber Coffman)
Wow, "she knows", "she will", "she won't". When will it end, smh. Again, this is NOTHING we haven't heard before, plus we got Cole singing on the track too?? Next please. 1.5 out of 5
9. Rich Niggaz
I REALLY like Cole's assessment of the rich man's attitude, past and present, and he's not naming any names here. This is great. 4.5 out of 5
10. Where's Jermaine (Skit)
11. Forbidden Fruit (featuring Kendrick Lamar)
I recently heard this one a few weeks prior to this review, and although it's another "woman type" song (PLEASE don't think I'm sexist because I'm not), it's on an entirely different level and it's very good. The on fire Kendrick Lamar is doing the hook here, and all I could think was, "if he does a verse here, he's going to kill it", and sadly, it doesn't happen. 4 out of 5
12. Chaining Day
It's all about the love of the chain, and Cole does an exceptional job here as well. I didn't care for the slowing up of the beat towards the end, along with the signing, but what we get before that was very good. 4 out of 5
13. Ain't That Some Shit (Interlude)
Another good interlude.
14. Crooked Smile (featuring TLC, Co-Produced By: Elite)
Ethan Hawke's character Jake Hoyt in "Training Day" said (in addition to cries) smiles is all you have and no one can take that away from you. In a way he made a good point and I sort of relay that comment to this song, which is another very good. Regarding the TLC feature, I honestly cannot tell if that's T-Boz and Chilli or someone else. 4 out of 5
15. Let Nas Down (Co-Produced By: No I.D.)
This is ANOTHER very good song, as Cole descriptively details some personal feelings, in that Nas, one of the MCs Cole names as an inspiration, did not like his hit "Work Out". I thought the song was ok, but certainly not one of Cole's best, however, "Let Nas Down" is one of his best, and it must be heard to be appreciated. 4.5 out of 5
16. Born Sinner (featuring James Fauntleroy)
This is more or less a "companion piece" to the opening "Villuminati" and it does close the album on a fitting note. The only complaint I have is that the choir portion of the song towards the end, while fine on the surface, should NOT have used the "F" word (with the clapping and everything), and allow me to explain. When I think of a choir, I immediately think of the church, so when I heard that "F" bomb used, that made me feel a certain kind of way, borderline offended possibly. Maybe I'm looking into it too much, or maybe, just maybe, that was Cole's intent with this song, hence the title "Born Sinner". 4 out of 5
Wow, take a look at those ratings. To get this out the way, overall, I give this album a 3.5 rating (as a 3 would be low considering there are three 4 star and three 4.5 songs, and even then I don't think it's strong enough for a 4 star rating). It started off great, but heading into the second song, it was more of the same, sprinkled with moments of greatness throughout (Rich Niggaz, Let Nas Down, Born Sinner, Crooked Smile, & Forbidden Fruit). Production wise, it's largely very good and I do feel Cole has a bright future behind the boards if he decides to do more of it, and lyrically he seems on point. It's not wack, it's not superior, but rather good for the most part. I could've done without the singing and the CONSTANT "woman talk" though. Compared to his debut, it kinda runs neck and neck if you ask me, and I wouldn't be surprised if it moves the same number of units. Give it a listen if you have an hour or so to spare, but as far as a recommendation, honestly, only for the diehard J. Cole fans.