Born Sinner may be the strongest album of the summer, despite it still being the start of the season. J Cole simply mesmerized the rap nation with this piece of work, which is only his second album under Roc Nation. A natural storyteller, Cole captured the entire spectrum emotion from partying to mourning to infatuation and love. Well, as much as you can fit in a 16-track album.
Safe to say Cole used Born Sinner to prove his status as one of the industry’s top lyricists, along with artists such as Andre 3000 and Kendrick Llamar. Not only did he use a limited amount of features, he also produced many of the songs himself showcasing his musical talent.
The album begins with “Villuminati,” a rather pompous start. Setting the mood of the album, he used the song to illustrate both spectrums of his personality; happy and sad, good and evil. It’s clear from the start his goal was to show all of himself with Born Sinner.
The most popular single of the album, “Power Trip,” tells another story of his longtime love interest. The catchy chorus and feature by the wildly talented Miguel made this song an instant hit.
Cole next tells an elaborate, intimate-feeling tale of a struggle between love and starting a career in “Runaway”. He also describes the many moral struggles of the music industry in “Trouble,” making the audience feel his inner battle personally.
Another top track is “Forbidden Fruit,” featuring Kendrick Llamar. In this song he once again has a hint of well-deserved cockiness with lyrics like:
“Put a price on my head won’t make me run. Try to kill me but it can’t be done. Cause my words gon’ live forever. You put two and two together Cole here forever.”
He goes on to explain nothing stays the same and change is imminent, so it’s wise to ”go with the flow.” This is the same tactic he used to release the album itself.
Cole barely promoted Born Sinner and handled the leak of the album extremely well. Selling nearly 300,000 copies first week compared to Kanye West’s overhyped release of Yeezus, which sold 327,000 copies, proved that Cole’s talent speaks for itself. He hints to it further in “Forbidden Fruit by slightly bragging:
“I’mma drop the album same day as Kanye. Just to show the boys I’m the man now like Wanyá.”
Next are “Chaining Day,” and “Ain’t That Some Shit.” The first of the two is a track that delves deeply into the somber section of the album. “Chaining Day” is to shed light on how the guilt of blowing his wealth on meaningless items weighs on his mind, like his heavy rose gold chain around his neck. Despite it having an overall serious and direct message, Cole manages to keep an upbeat vibe.
The latter of the two was an almost jokingly arrogant track explaining, in detail, his high-class lifestyle. He uses this track to rub in the fact that he is on his game right now and he’s well aware of it.
“Crooked Smile,” proceeded and rekindled the emotional connection with the audience. Cole explained that our imperfections are what make actually us perfect individuals. Claiming he considered fixing his teeth to fit the industry standards but refrained after realizing that his unique features distinguish him.
The remainder of the album is just as well produced and performed as the rest. “Let Nas Down,” followed suit with the reflective tone of the close of the album. This track was one of the best on the album, describing him letting his idol, Nas, down with his previously released music. He explained further explained in the song:
“Dion called me when it dropped, sounded sad but sincere. Told me Nas heard your single and he hate that shit. Said you the one, yo why you make that shit. I can’t believe I let Nas down.”
Nas has released a remix of the song, “Made Nas Proud,” in which he tells Cole he is the “Young King” and there is nothing to worry about, he hasn’t let him down yet.
The album concludes with the title track, a song used to show he is not defined by his mistakes and that his destiny is far from being decided. It felt like he was sending the message that this album was purely “J Cole” as an artist. He tried to be as transparent and open as possible and show his true fans what he was about, that he would no longer be confined by the industry standards and expectation.
J Cole used Born Sinner to show he is successful on his on terms, and he was right.