I Can't Call It: Born Sinner - J. Cole

Posted On Monday, June 17, 2013

I never liked J Cole. It’s not that I thought dude was wack but I never saw the hype that everybody else was seeing. My other knock on dude is he doesn’t have a dope voice. I can’t count how many times I heard a song with J. Cole on it and I was like “yo, whoever’s rhyming is nice” but I never knew it was dude. I’d hear Melanie Fiona’s “This Time” and be rhyming right along with dude like “if looks kill/then Melanie then you a felony” and I’m like “dude is nice…who is that? I’d be listening to Elle Varner’s “Only Wanna Give It To You” and again, I’m rhyming along with dude like “you’re all I need to get by/you’re fly, so you’re all I need to get high” and again, I’m like “dude is dope…who is that?” Want another example? How about Keri Hilson’s “Buyou” “I see you, it’s hard not to see you/face like Aaliyah and plus a college degree” and AGAIN I’m like “who the f-ck is this rhyming?!?!??” So, it doesn’t take a genius to guess that if I NEVER know it’s J Cole rhyming, then how could I be a fan of dude? It’s like Guru said “it’s mostly the voice.” It’s one of the things that separates good MC’s from GREAT MC’s. When I listen to BIG, Jay, Nas, Rakim, Ice Cube, Snoop, G Rap, L.L., etc. I know it’s them. I never had a “J. Cole moment” with Rakim…like “that Know the Ledge is ill…but who’s rhyming? So again, I never disliked Cole, I just never knew it was actually J. Cole rhyming which made me never check for his first album. My dude E.S. reviewed it for the site and dude is always telling me to check Cole but I can’t front…Cole just never gave me enough reason for me to check him. But if there’s one thing I can say about the lack of good hip hop in 2013, it’s that it’ll make you listen to music that you wouldn’t normally listen to. Which is why J Cole’s “Born Sinner” actually made it’s way into my rotation.

“Born Sinner” sets off with “Villuminati” which freaks the BIG sample “born sinner, the opposite of a winner” and has Cole addressing everything from “bragging like Hov” to the illuminati rumors about him. “these next three bars/is dedicated to the retards/keep on asking me about the illuminati/is you stupid n-gga/young black millionaire/old white billionaires/I’m sure they can do without me.”  The first single “Power Trip” featuring Miguel STAYS on repeat in the whip, while “Troubles” has Cole speaking on some of the problems he encounters “I ain’t f-ck her but I’m thinking about it/my n-ggaz like, why you gotta think about it/the b-tch want too much, hit my phone too much/if I gotta be frank about it/ain’t worth the stress/first the texts/then the draws see first is sex/then it’s cars cause the bird’s obsessed/wants flowers, cards then the purse is next.” “Runaway” deals with the struggles of being in a committed relationship, “sleeping back to back/this is wack/we bout to go platinum and I’m in the crib acting out/my childhood fantasies of wife and home/but it’s a whole lotta actresses I’d like to bone.”  “Rich Niggaz” and “Chaining Day” are both dope but I can’t front, I thought “Forbidden Fruit” featuring Kendrick Lamar was gonna have Cole and Lamar going back ‘n’ forth on some lyrical ish but Kendrick just checks in on the chorus.  

One thing I can mos def say about Cole, is this dude may be the best MC in the game at doing collabos with R&B folk without “selling out” cause when I heard he was doing a song with TLC I was like “well, this is the start of the ending” but “Crooked Smile” is probably my favorite song on “B.S.” On this jawn Cole takes Kanye’s “All Fall Down” to the next level about folk and their self esteem, “They tell me I should fix my grill now that I got money now/I ain’t gonna sit around and front like I ain't thought about it/a perfect smile is more appealing but it’s funny how/my sh-t is crooked look at how far I done got without it/I keep my twisted grill just to show the kids it’s real/we ain’t picture perfect but we worth the picture still.” Cole's “Let Nas Down” sounds like No I.D. cooked this up the same day he cooked up Nas’ “Stay” and has Cole breaking down Nas’ disappointment in his 2011 single “Work Out”, “Dion called me when it dropped sounding sad but sincere/told me Nas heard your single and he hate that sh-t/said you the one, why you make that shit/I can’t believe I let Nas down.” The title cut ends the album on a dope note cause after hearing this banger you definitely don’t want the ride to be over. "Spinning in circles, live my life without rehearsal/if I die today my n-gga was in business? Was it personal?/Should this be my last breath I'm blessed cause it was purposeful/Never got to church to worship Lord but please be merciful/You made me versatile, well rounded like cursive/Now you chose me for purpose I put my soul in these verses/Born sinner, was never born to be perfect/Sucka for women licking their lips and holding purses/Back when we ran the streets who would think we grow to be murderers/Teachers treated niggaz as if they were totally worthless, and violent and hopeless."

I can’t front, “Born Sinner” is MUCH better then what I expected. I still probably won’t know if it’s J. Cole if I hear him on something that’s not on this album (it’s kinda easy to know who you’re listening to when you’re listening to their album…especially with no guest appearences – which I TOTALLY salute Cole for) but my main beef with “Born Sinner” are the beats. This is another reason why I never had an urge to listen to Cole’s first album because most of the beats I hear Cole rhyming over, never do anything for me. The way I judge dope beats is if it make me wanna turn on my MPC and start cooking but after listening to “Born Sinner”…let’s just say that I’m not running to the studio to turn anything on. My other beef with “B.S” is that it reminds me of Ice Cube’s “Jacking for Beats.”  “Land of The Snakes” uses the beat to Outkast’s “The Art of Storytelling Part 1”…not just the same sample but the whole beat! “Forbidden Fruit” samples Ronnie Foster’s “Mytic Brew” that Tribe made famous with “Electric Relaxation” and “Chaining Day” samples Shy Slick and Wicked’s “Sho Nuff” which Timbaland JUST sampled for Justin Timberlake’s “Suit and Tie” which in some circles wouldn’t be a big deal cause cats use the same samples all of the time. But the breaking point is that Cole has the beat slow down the EXACT same way Timbo does with “Suit and Tie!” And after a couple of listens, I realize the reason I rock with “Crooked Smile” so much is because it samples the one Jennifer Hudson’s song I LOVE “No One’s Gonna Love You” that JUST dropped a minute ago!

My dude Marsh who’s a record dealer got at me over the weekend on Twitter to say to “check Born Sinner and compare it with other new CD’s.” Sorry bruh, I can’t do that. I can’t compare it to everything else that’s out cause if that’s the case it would probably get 10 mics! I gotta look at it the same way I’ve always looked at hip hop. I’ve been told numerous times by cats I run with that if I don’t change my rating scale and stop comparing today’s hip hop to the hip hop we grew up on that I’ll always be disappointed. Welp, then I’m always gonna be disappointed cause there’s no way I’m gonna dumb down the way I look at the game and try to trick myself into not being disappointed with the game. The good news for J. Cole fans is even without me dumbing down the way I look at hip hop AND the fact that Cole broke damn near every sample rule in the hip hop bible can’t stop “Born Sinner” being a real dope album. 

4 outa 5

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