“BORN SINNER,” WAS NEVER BORN TO BE PERFECT
By: Nasiphi Mvunyiswa
Hip Hop lovers around the world have been blessed with what some are already calling a Hip Hop classic. J. Cole officially released his second album, Born Sinner, on June 18th. It went straight to number 1 on iTunes South Africa. It sold 297,922 albums in just the first week.
This is the rappers’ second offering. On his debut album, Cole World: The sideline story, he made his mark as one of the most lyrically talented rappers in the world. But with Born Sinner he did more than just make a mark – he tattooed his name into Hip Hop history. Now it hasn’t been an easy ride for J.Cole on the road to the release for this album. First of all, it leaked two weeks before its actual release date, so that obviously caused damage to his album sales. The album was also released on the same day as Kanye West’s album, Yeezus. Kanye West has a markedly bigger fan base than J.Cole. Cole said he chose to compete with Yeezus, and this could well have been career suicide for him. You don’t really compete with a Kanye West album and expect to be victorious at the end of it, just ask 50Cent. But it seems J.Cole has managed to claim that victory. According to week one sales, Born sinner is a better album than Yeezus, both lyrically and when it comes to production.
What is immediately apparent about this album is J.Cole’s obvious respect for old school hip-hop. He declined to utilise the ubiquitous auto tune, which is what most hip hop artists choose to do nowadays. When listening to Born Sinner you fall in love with J.Cole because of how talented he is as a rapper. His lyrical capabilities could be compared to legends like Jay-Z and Lauryn Hill. And he’s the executive producer for the album; other producers that contributed to Born Sinner are the likes of Christian Rich, DJ Dummy, Jake one, Ken Lewis and Nate Jones.
Power Trip was the first single released from the album on February 14. The single features R&B star Miguel. It’s an addictive song, inevitable that it will stay in your mind the whole day after one listen, especially because of Miguel’s voice on the chorus, it’s somewhat hypnotic. And you get lost in the story Cole tells on the song. That’s one of the elements that make J.Cole a great rapper- he’s able to tell a story through his music, stories that most individuals can identify with. The song is produced by Cole himself, and is sampled from a song by American singer Hubert Laws titled No more. It was a strong single choice, and it debuted at number 29 on the Billboard chart.
Born Sinner, which is the title track for the album, features James Fauntleroy. This song has a sad tone to it, with soft instruments. James Fauntleroy compliments the chorus beautifully. At the end it concludes with a church vibe, with the background singers becoming louder and crescendoing like an enraptured church choir. It’s songs like this that make Cole a unique rapper; it’s obvious that he consciously tries to make his sound different from the rest.
Cole collaborates with new comer Kendrick Lamar on a track titled Forbidden Fruit. Even though Lamar is a new comer, he’s one of the best rappers in the game right now; he’s been causing waves since he came into the music industry. So one might expect a brilliant song when Cole and Lamar collaborate. But Forbidden fruit is barely above average, and is a disappointing track from the pair. The one good thing about it is the lyrical content.
The song that is probably the best track on the album is Crooked Smile. It would not be far off to say this is probably the best song the rapper has ever released. He features old school R&B group TLC. The lyrical content on this song is beyond amazing, with lines like “you a woman? I don’t know how you deal with all the pressure to look impressive and go out in heels, I feel for you, killing yourself to find a man that’ll kill for you” and “Now is it real? Eyebrows, fingernails, hair. Is it real? If it’s not, girl you don’t care what’s real is something that the eyes can’t see. That the hands can’t touch, that them broads can’t be and that’s you”. It’s a song that empowers women, and that’s a breath of fresh air considering how rappers normally rap about women. The production is extraordinary, he mostly uses piano and like the single Born Sinner, he again uses that choir vibe.
The song that has gotten the most hype since the album got released is Let Nas down. This is a beautiful hip hop song influenced by jazz music; the instrument used the most is the saxophone. But what’s more beautiful is the story in the song and how the story concluded when the album got released. In the song Cole talks about how the legendary rapper Nas didn’t like the single to his first album and how that broke his heart because he felt he let Nas down: “my heart sank to my stomach I can’t believe I let Nas down”. A few days after the release of Born Sinner, Nas did a remix to the song as a sort of reply to J.Cole. Nas titled the remix Made Nas proud. In the remix Nas basically says how proud he is of J.Cole and what a great album Born Sinner is. A lot of hip hop fans around the world were touched by this story because a veteran rapper was giving the crown to a fairly new rapper.
Other hit tracks on the album are Villuminati, She knows featuring Amber Coffman, Runaway, and Trouble. The album also features two skits titled Kerny Sermon and Where’s Jermain and an interlude titled Aint that some ish.
It’s hard to find flaws with this album, it’s beautifully produced, and J.Cole is genuinely a brilliant rapper and this album shows he is also a competent music producer. He has clearly gained a huge fan base with the release of Born Sinner and people are forced to take notice.