While his debut album didn't secure the stardom Roc Nation expected, J. Cole has returned with sophomore effort Born Sinner, an unabashed story of musical dedication and malicious hunger. Born Sinner opens up with "Villuminati," a choir-heavy cut that samples Notorious B.I.G.'s "Juice." While it acts as an introduction to the following 15 songs, by looping B.I.G.'s infamous line, "born sinner, the opposite of a winner," it's clear Cole recognizes his underdog status.
Similar to critique aimed at his contemporary competitor Drake, J. Cole has been subject to accusations of coasting and falling short of high quality in an age of lowered standards and expectations. The butt of running jokes surrounding a supposed inability to captivate, he finds himself at odds attempting to please not only a crowd clamoring for the passion found on his former mixtapes but an industry model only considerate of polished hit makers.
If his debut found J. Cole bringing the sound of Drake down to the streets, the Roc Nation rapper's sophomore effort finds him going for the full Illuminati and attempting an ambitious, multi-faceted album in the style of his label boss, Jay-Z. No spoiler alert required for that one as the opening "Villuminati" has the gall to sample Biggie's classic "Juicy" while using Jay's nickname as a mantra by repeating "Sometimes I brag like Hov," but besides this, Born Sinner is the a more self-confessional and word-filled effort than before, all of it very busy and Black Album minus the references to Beyoncé and the beats from Rick Rubin.
In three very plainspoken tweets last month, J. Cole announced that he would be releasing his sophomore album, Born Sinner, a week early, to compete with Kanye West's Yeezus. Too often a label holds an album so it doesn't get overshadowed by a bigger release, but Cole has managed to steal some of Kanye's thunder without appearing either greedy or disrespectful.
On his sophomore effort J.Cole is breaking away from the major-label compromises he made on his debut, and addresses that discomfort from the album's very first words to the penultimate and most-buzzed-about track, Let Nas Down. But he hasn't abandoned radio-friendliness altogether - see Power Trip, his broody, base-heavy collab with Miguel. Cole boasts a decent singing voice himself, and his seductive rasp serves him well here.
For his second album, J. Cole presents a self confident man who believes he’s a front runner in the hip-hop game. There are a lot of new artists pushing out a lot of high caliber work, with two of the most successful being Kendrick Lamar and A$AP Rocky. For Cole it was thus important to deliver an album that cemented his position at the top.
Beats Per Minute (formerly One Thirty BPM) - 68 Based on rating 68%%
J. ColeBorn Sinner[Roc Nation / Columbia; 2013]By Chase McMullen; June 21, 2013Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOGJ. Cole has been on the run the past year, repositioning following the awkward misstep that was his major label debut, Cole World. As the album’s sub-title, The Sideline Story, bludgeons the listener over the head with, Cole is – quite insistently – hip hop’s perpetual underdog.
"Sometimes I brag like Hov/ Sometimes I'm real like Pac," J. Cole raps on his second LP. Sometimes he's both – a verbal powerhouse and a self-emptying truth-sayer. The flagship signee to Jay-Z's record label spins dervish rhymes over dazzling self-produced tracks (see the Outkast-sampling "Land of the Snakes").
Born Sinner, the heavily referential second LP for Roc Nation signee Jermaine Cole, borrows its title from the Notorious B.I.G.’s "Juicy". By the time you’ve reached the record's end, you’ll have seen him try on a number of familiar hats. He repurposes OutKast's “Da Art of Storytellin Pt. 1” (“Land of the Snakes”) and fashions it into an anti-L.A.
We’re in the Garden of Eden with J. Cole. The young rapper’s second LP Born Sinner references the original sin myth simply with its title. On the late-album track “Forbidden Fruit” he opens: “Me and my bitch/ took a little trip/ down to the garden/ took a little dip/ apple juice falling from her lips/ took a little sip.” Allusions to apples are all across the 16 self-produced tracks, along with glimpses of snakes, countless temptations, and the feeling that Cole knows too much for his own good.
In the early seconds of “Villuminati,” Born Sinner’s opening track, J. Cole warns us listeners that “it’s way darker this time.” The ground trodden thus far by the North Carolina rapper has been muddy, to be sure — rags-to-riches disillusionment, collegiate heartbreak, materialistic malaise — but comparatively spotless, when considered alongside the conscience-crushing narratives offered up by peers like Kendrick Lamar, Big K.R.I.T., and even Yelawolf. But as ominous orchestral peals rumble in the distance and a clattering beat picks up steam, it appears that we may have the baby-faced underdog mistaken.
Label: Roc Nation / Columbia RecordsProduction: J. Cole Written By Kyle Renwick “It’s way darker this time” J. Cole declares as his second studio album, Born Sinner, opens to “Villuminati.” Those words couldn’t be truer as Cole clings to themes of moral dilemma and frustrated love affairs through most of the album. He delves head first into the album with introspective lyrics on his lowly upbringing, relationship experience and personal insecurities; leaving desperate lines about newly acquired riches by the waist-side.
J. Cole understands the hip-hop landscape has changed since his debut in 2011. Kendrick Lamar’s revelatory breakthrough set the bar for contemporary excellence, so Cole’s second release finds him with a chip on his shoulder as he attempts to up the ante. Claiming he’s “here for a greater purpose,” Cole has made a searching record with big ambitions.
If the self-mythologizing of "Yeezus" is a little much for you, how about a rap album where the MC is bummed that he disappointed his hero? J. Cole's "Born Sinner" is at the other end of the universe from Kanye West's latest — a quieter, self-examining rap record that's short on audacity but long on workman-like singles. Take "Let Nas Down," where the North Carolina-based Cole recounts an incident in which his idol, the rapper Nas, didn't take well to one of Cole's singles.
J. Cole could have called his sophomore set Confessions Of A Born Sinner. The hour-long offering plays like a recorded rip of a confessional box sit down with Jermaine, who pours out his signature “from-the-heart-shit” throughout the album’s 16-tracks. And while there’s a handful of vintage Cole here, Born Sinner also veers into previously uncharted territory for the 28-year-old, who goes to great lengths to prove just how conflicted and complicated he is.