“It’s the feeling in the air you bout to drop a real classic
He said Cole, “A lil’ birdy told me on the low you got an Illmatic”
Nobody touching Nas nigga it’s more like Villematic” – Villematic (Friday Night Lights)
It’s entirely too early to determine what the status of this album will be in the years to come, although we do live in a generation that gives the title of classic to just about every album 30 minutes after downloading a leak, but for what it’s worth, the anticipation, the hype, and the build up for J.Cole’s 2nd album is what a lot of people were looking forward to for quite some time. I think it’s because Sideline Story was such a disappointment for many that the expectations were either: high, low, or simply in the happy medium. I know that I was prepared for this album because of the first single that he put out, his feature verses (Pray by The Game also featuring JMSN is the notable one), and his growing strength in producing is what had me enticed as to what we’ll hear. Also, the fact that he moved up release date to compete with Kanye West shows that he has the confidence in his music that he can go toe to toe with the great ones. He has a quote later on in the album that says: “long live the idols, may they never be your rivals” and Kanye West is definitely idolized by many, so why not share the same spotlight with one of the greats? It would make sense to me.
The title of the album – Born Sinner – is a reflection of the fact that when you’re born, you’re already surrounded by the world’s wrongs which become to manifest around you. A line that I’m thinking of right now is Kendrick Lamar’s from Ab-Soul’s Outro on Section.80:
“you ever see a newborn baby kill a grown man? That’s an analogy for how the world makes me react. My innocence’s been dead”
The picture of the baby with Deviled horns symbolizes that we’re unknown to the fact that we essentially sin from Day 1, but it’s not until we grow and receive an understanding of just what it is that’s so sinful. Religion, spirituality; whatever you believe in, they’ve been common topics throughout Hip Hop as of recent that have been constantly spoken upon, and it’s something that a lot of young people can relate to (which is primarily his target audience) because like myself, I’m not very religious, and I do question a lot of things that I’ve been exposed to when it comes to having a belief in a higher power or the Bible itself. Everything comes down the Kanye’s line in Gorgeous, which I’m sure I’ve regurgitated through several of my reviews, but it works here:
“Is Hip Hop just a euphemism for a new religion?”
With names like Hov, Yeezus, and J.Cole stating “This the rap Moses, scratch that, Mary and Joseph’s son,” where many see art, others see blasphemy, but I don’t think that’s the approach that this album was going to take. In a way, I felt as if he wasn’t in his comfort zone when making his first album, but hopefully he breaks out of his shell and surprises us all.
When I read that he brought a full choir in the studio to record on his album, you knew that he was going to go all out with the concept throughout the album (if you could divvy out exactly what the concept of it was). That was evident for a bit on Villuminati, but what I didn’t expect was that this song was going to start off the album in a ferocious manner. The “Born sinner, the opposite of a winner” sample from Biggie’s Juicy was a nice touch, and the fact that it’s a Timbaland beat as well? It was nuts. However, granted that the beat was hot, I just need to know who pissed off Jermaine? Although he gave a brief disclaimer: “It’s way darker this time,” you couldn’t predict that he would go off on the track the way he did. A lot of people aren’t fans of brag rap, but when it’s done correctly, it can sound wicked. Hov has also been known for his bragging throughout tracks for years now, having been imitated up the ass, you can never duplicate the success he’s laid out on the table (and continues to do so) over his stretch of time. You can tell that people were getting under his skin, because he lashed out towards the rappers that claim to have success but only through a computer screen (no names, however). I find it funny that people still to this day call J.Cole trash or is sub-par, but when so many people compare him to the likes of legends like Tupac & Nas, you can understand where the disgruntled Hip Hop protectors come in to voice their displeasure – it’s not necessary. Everyone isn’t meant to follow in the footsteps of their predecessors; finding your own lane is better than anything else and when you’re successful at it, why change?
They say I’m the down south Nas
The east coast Pac
The Carolina Andre
The Fayettenam Kanye
So join it, ya can’t beat it
To all the nonbelievers
If you missed it I’ll repeat it
I’m the light skinned Jesus – I Really Mean It (Freestyle)
It was his confidence on the track that stood out. I was at the Born Sinner Listening Session (I thank God that I’m from Toronto sometimes) and when I first heard this, it was like the walk of confidence you have when you get a nice paycheque or you killed a job interview – that’s how I was feeling at that point. The flourishing of J.Cole was evident. The Illuminati is often brought up when an artist becomes successful, and also because of the fact that people associate Jay-Z to the Illuminati and so on and so forth. Too many people have been watching the YouTube conspiracy videos, but no matter what you believe in, it’s clear that Cole shuts down what they say about him
“These next three bars is dedicated to the retards
Keep on asking me about the Illuminati
Is you stupid nigga? Young black millionaire
Old white billionaires, I’m sure that they could do without me”
Thinking back to HiiiPoWeR (coincidentally produced by J.Cole), Kendrick Lamar also addressed the similar topic (whether it was directly or indirectly about him, no one knows)
“Who said a Black man in Illuminati? Last time I checked, that was the biggest racist party”
I like the fact that Cole played along with saying that he was going to just join it like “fuck it” (insert Kanye Shrug), but the truth of the matter is that it’s all a joke. Venturing away from that particular subject, this is the introduction to the album, and you seem to forget that in the 2nd verse, but he does have a story that has to be told, because it’s about having to witness just what type of growth and experiences along with his success has occurred, and it’s as if this would be an audio repent asking the Lord to forgive him of his sins. The initial song had me hooked, so from here, I was awaiting to see how he’d pull the album along.
The Kerney Sermon skit reminded me of the dude who was impersonating Bernie Mac on The College Dropout, but I literally had no idea that this guy was a real person. It’s funny how religion works, because they get people on screen to sell you bogus stuff to get you to believe in their products, and it’s like seeing an ATM in church for people to take out money to give to the pastor. It’s a whole bunch of smoke and mirrors that’s revolved around religion, which is why many people take it for a joke and simply a money laundering scheme much like any large corporate business trying to sell you life insurance or health products (or so I’ve heard). I think it was a play also on Cole’s album and saying that this album is pretty much a “Personal Prayer Package” of sorts and that this album is the miracle that many have been waiting for (you know – without the smoke & mirrors).
Land of the Snakes takes a turn into the Cole of old that we’ve known about for years on end – it’s about the come up. But being on his 2nd album, you’d think that he’d rap less about his comeuppance, and more about his current success. What separates him is that he remains humble and doesn’t forget about his roots and where he comes from, although the money has changed dramatically. The sample of Outkast’s Da Art of Storytelling lets you know that, well – a story is about to be told, and how the sample transitioned from the skit to this beat would be a constantly used feature throughout the album. Snakes are all around us, whether we’re famous or not, there will always be those people lingering around that will come out of nowhere and bite you in the back like you owe them something. There are always warning signs that will flash before your eyes, and I think that because J.Cole’s growing success and popularity was so exposed, when you have something from your past come back around the honesty about who he used to be comes out and the ‘repent’ that I stated earlier comes into some effect because he’s reflecting on it, and that was basically what the 3rd verse touched on. We all have our things that we’re not proud of because when it’s happening in the moment, you don’t see anything wrong with it (‘cause ignorance is bliss). This is a track I can definitely relate to.
After the J.Cole listening session, my friend Matthew made a good point about the album, and how everything fit well, especially the singles like Power Trip. It’s a single, but it doesn’t feel like it was a single, it just felt like it was part of the album (if you get what I mean). Now, the song ‘Dreams’ is from The Warm Up, but this is a continuation of that and just how he’s feeling about a girl that he wants but can’t have even though he’s more popular and successful this time around.
“Seems like I always had crushes on chicks I couldn’t have
And then I end up fucking with someone I shouldn’t have
See, in my mind, it’s like I’m perfect for her, I gotta show her
But sadly, in reality, dog, I don’t even know her” – Dreams
Many people can relate to Drake because of relationship woes, but sometimes having a crush is just as emotionally stressing as being in a relationship, because one of the worst feelings is wanting someone that’s currently involved with someone else. I can’t even explain how many times I’ve been in this situation, but that’s the reason why I can connect with J.Cole’s music in more ways than one. Continuing the themes from previous years’ work is something that the fans will appreciate and new fans to be intrigued as to what he did prior to this album. Having Miguel on the hook worked out well, because he’s one of the bigger R&B acts out right now, and not to go away from the fact that ‘All I Want is You’ was a great track that had Cole on Miguel’s album – it’s all about the chemistry that took place as well with the track. The video helps tell the story as well, so it’s really a great song through audio and visual details. Watching the ‘Making Of’ for this song showed the growing talent that Cole has as a producer in a generation that is bringing out more artists that are also producing their own material (Big K.R.I.T is another example).
Mo Money could have definitely been a track on its own if he wanted to, but sometimes what has to be said doesn’t need 2-3 minutes of explanation. Money is new to Black people – there aren’t a lot of Black Billionaires (plenty of millionaires); the problem is that they don’t stack up against White people (but I’m just stating the obvious) and when they get some money, they blow it all way (watch the ESPN 30 for 30 special ‘Broke’ for example). And when you’re an entertainer, rapper, athlete, or drug dealer, think about how many separate expenses you must have. Cole listed off examples, but what was funny to me was when he compared his money to the really wealthy people who have money
“Still broke compared to niggas with old money
I mean the type of niggas that laugh at Hov money
Billionaires with Petroleum and coal money
Probably kill themselves if they had Cole money”
That reminded me of Chris Rock’s special Never Scared when he was talking about Rich vs. Wealth when he was comparing Bill Gates to Oprah:
“If Bill Gates woke up one morning with Oprah’s money, he’d jump out a fuckin’ window…he’d slit his throat on the way down like ‘AWH SHIT! I CAN’T EVEN PUT GAS IN MY PLANE!’”
But it’s true, Black people don’t know how to act when they get money. Perfect example is a woman from Hamilton, Ontario, Canada who won the lottery (about $10 Million) and she blew all of her money in 5 years – she’s back to taking the bus to work. Allow me to be Frank here when I say NIGGAS DON’T KNOW HOW TO ACT! This is why we can’t have nice things, and until sense kicks in, this will always be a general issue
“Money control niggas, white man control money
Laughing like “yeah yeah my nigga get your money”
Trouble was a track that didn’t hit me at first, but I listened to it a couple of times to get the story behind it, and it’s something that happens a lot – the Hit & Run. When you’re just looking for quick sex, and you’re in a position to do so, that’s all your focus is on, but for rappers (like Cole for example) there’s always a ‘price’ that comes along (sort of ties in to his line in Mo Money referencing to ‘side hoes’). One of the Seven deadly sins is Lust, and by God we’re all guilty of that. Men often think with both of their heads, but it’s the one below the waist that gets us in the most trouble, and the one attached to our neck that has to do the clean-up of the mess that was created. But let’s be honest, there are a lot of women that are just after the pockets and the zipper is the key to getting there. This track feels like one of those themes that appeals to the dudes on the block that deal with this every day.
“I ain’t fooled cause a lot of cool bitches
That a nigga went to school with is major hoes
And they mans don’t know, mans don’t know, fa show
Had a baby, little mans don’t know
Momma was a freak, got it in on the low”
This was definitely a different vibe that had the ATL Southern inspired trap behind it, but it still carried substance because Cole’s always rapping about some women that are giving him grief (he hasn’t strayed far from Sideline Story).
Runaway much like Kanye West’s song of the same title is about loved one, and in this case, it’s Cole’s girlfriend. It’s crazy that he’s been with her for a long time, but he keeps her away from the media so people really don’t even know who she is; it’s good that he’s able to keep his love life separated or it would be a different ball game. The opening clip that has a Mike Epps snippet perfectly describes men in relationships when they’re with and without their significant others (in most cases, not all, but most).
“But a nigga wanna be a nigga, be a nigga
Ride through the streets with freaks and real niggas
She never understand what it’s like to be a man
Knowing when you look inside yourself you see a nigga”
I always emphasize that you have to never forget that you’re still an individual person when you’re in a relationship and there are just certain things that you can’t help because it’s in your human nature to behave a certain way – we’re humans, not robots. But when you’re a rapper in the spotlight like Cole is and you’re looked at as someone who has a strong female fan base, of course there will be temptations from groupies and fans alike that you might give in, but you know you can’t. I’d imagine that it’s difficult as hell to have a relationship while putting on an image that flaunts like you’re single (like Fabolous & Emily B’s relationship was – just minus the TV show appearances). The 2nd verse of this song spoke heavily because of a few lines
“In this life ain’t no happy endings
Only pure beginnings followed by years of sinning and fake repentance”
That takes me back to the title of the album as well as the Kendrick Lamar line reference. Born pure, but from there on out, our innocence becomes tarnished and when we want to try and better our ways, they’re never sincere. As soon as you accept your flaws and wrongdoings, I believe you’re more at peace with yourself because you’ll stop trying as hard. Religious debates and arguments are always being made, because there are people who don’t even believe in god at all, and the idea that ‘we’re all made in God’s image’ is something that people see as farfetched.
“The preacher says we were made in image of Lord
To which I replied: “Are you sure?
Even the murderer? Even the whore?
Even the nigga running through bitches on tour?”
Whatever your belief is as far as if you think we’re all created in God’s image, even the evil doers, there are questions that one has in mind that you’d hope to have the answers to, but sadly it may not even happen. That’s just how life works – trying discover the answers of your own life’s questions. You can tell that the deeper version of J.Cole has been brought out, because it’s about bringing honesty back to Hip Hop. A lot of people praised good kid, m.A.A.d city so much because it was a concept album that was primarily honesty and it wasn’t mainstream noise just to push some records like most people do. Cole looks at his decision to be more so himself as a sacrifice to being bigger than he can be, but it’s about being himself at the same time; not being an object to the music industry just for a bigger cheque at the end of the day – that’s real.
The clever thing about She Knows is that the sample says “runaway” in it, so I honestly thought that it was just Runaway extended, so I liked how he did that. He took a step out of the norm and went another direction, it’s pop-ish, and I can definitely understand why people won’t exactly like it, because sonically it’s a full 180 from what the album has been playing already. It’s pretty much an extension from ‘Runaway’ in a sense that he’s still questioning his ability to be committed to his girlfriend because he’s unsure on how he’ll hold up settling down, but ‘she knows’ that ‘a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do.’ I don’t know about his love life like that, but given what he’s been airing out, he’s not exactly the greatest of companions – at least he’s honest about it. This song could get bypassed by many – it feels like it’s just ‘there’ and nothing more.
Rich Niggaz don’t know how to act, and this spews the envy of Cole because when you see people just climb their way to the top without having to really do anything to earn it, you’ll definitely feel some type of way.
“Who you had to kill, who you had to rob
Who you had to fuck just to make it to the top dammit?
Or maybe that’s daddy money, escalator no ladder money
Escalating new caddy money
Worst fear going broke cause I’m bad with money.”
I won’t lie to you, rich people piss me off too, because you see someone your age or younger, or maybe just somebody in general who has had it well off because they’ve been benefitting since birth – it’s not that I hate them, it just that when you wish you could be in their position but you have to work 10 times harder to get it, it just adds hunger, and I think that’s what’s been evoked to Cole – he’s hungry again like he was before he got signed, just because you see these new age rappers breaking out through YouTube without really doing anything. I’d be mad too. Reflecting on the struggles of his past and even exploring the darker corridors of his mindset when it comes to depression, this track defines Cole’s mindset in the case of keeping his soul pure and not having to (metaphorically) sell it to become a major star – he wants to do it his own way, and you have to respect that notion. You can have all of the money in the world, but it can’t truly save you from yourself if you’re messed up in the head. There’s a lot of rappers out that you can put into one category who generally rap about the same thing on every verse, and why? It’s about the money, not for the passion. The 2nd verse touches on that, and these things have to be said (although everything’s a subliminal, no one airs out names – even though on Villuminati he did take a hit at Trinidad James). This beat felt very Justin Timberlake inspired almost as if he studied the beats on The 20/20 Experience, I dig it a lot.
The Where’s Jermaine? skit reminded me of one of the many that were at the end of a few songs on The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. What really caught on to me was when I heard the sample from A Tribe Called Quest’s Electric Relaxation (one of my favourite songs of all time) and then it led into Forbidden Fruit with Kendrick Lamar, which was highly anticipated when the tracklist was released. The reason why I was so hyped about this song was because if you’ve heard Shock the World & Temptation, you’d understand that these are two dope MCs that have the potential to make some great songs together (and they have an album coming out together, so who knows what that has in store). The forbidden fruit in context is the Forbidden Apple from the Garden of Eden in which J.Cole plays the role of Adam and the root of all evil (if that’s what you believe in) starts here. This track mainly shows off the confidence boost that Cole has grown with since his debut album and also voicing his displeasure on the fact that he’s still not appreciated much by the media, so he’s just going to make music that’s not just for commercial appeal, but to appeal to the fans; it’s a risk, but he’s good enough that he can do it. When he also explained his reasoning for moving up his album release date to compete with Kanye, it showed that he’s doing it as a sign of respect, but also the fact that a new generation of rappers is coming and they should set themselves up for a large platform. I think it’s a good move on his part, although Kanye’s more than likely to do more in sales.
“How many records do a nigga gotta sell just to get the cover of the XXL
Or Fader, fuck a magazine hater
When I say that I’m the greatest I ain’t talking about later
I’mma drop the album the same day as Kanye
Just to show the boys the man now like Wanyá
And I don’t mean no disrespect, I praise legends
But this what next the boy sick, can’t disinfect”
A lot of people may or may not know about Lil Cole (listen to Dollar & A Dream Part 2), but his appearance on the album is refreshing for Cole fans, as it’s yet again another one of his older trademarks that makes its way around to the 2nd album. He’s like his ‘ignorant conscious’ that does all of the ignorant and outlandish things that ignorant and outlandish people do. Again, how this transitioned to Chaining Day was wicked because of the skit at the end of the song. It was like one of the skits on The Game’s Jesus Piece album when one of the guys was showing off his new chain before the title song started. It all flowed so well and the seamless effect is part of strategic placement, so I commend Cole for that.
Chaining day is a significant day for rappers (or at least it used to be) when one was welcomed to a group. Notable moments (that I can recall off the top of my head) was Kanye West being admitted to Roc-A-Fella, and (this is random) Jin being chained on 106 & Park into Ruff Ryders. However, despite the Hip Hop commemoration, this track is more so about the spending that rappers do when they first get a lot of money – they buy jewelry, and more often than none, it’s a chain that is the first purchase. The reason is because you want to put on an image that you are rich, but most of the time it’s just a mask that’s hiding what’s real, and he had a line that made the most sense to explain it:
“This is everything they told a nigga not to do
Image is everything I see, it got a lot to do
With the way that people perceive, and what they believe
Money short so this jewelry is like a weave
Meant to deceive…”
I saw a video of J.Cole a couple of months ago (maybe longer) performing the first verse at a college show, and I had a feeling that it was going to be a good one. He didn’t disappoint, because let’s be real here; money is the object that consumes lives. A lot of people like the fact that they receive a lot of attention from everyone when they’re wearing a piece of flashy jewelry, and a chain is what stands out the most. It’s basically being a vanity slave (New slaves perhaps, ala Kanye West), but what I liked about the song is that he made an example out of the “nigga logic” on how most see money when looking at spending vs. saving:
“Ice on this white Jesus seem a little unholy
The real strange thing about this iced out Rolly
It’s the same shit a broke black nigga get gassed at
The same shit a rich white muthafucka laugh at
Well laugh on white man, I ain’t paid as you
But I bet your rims ain’t the same age as you
And I ain’t got no investment portfolio
But my black and white diamonds shinin’ like a Oreo”
One cancerous mindset of Black people that I can say is true, through experience, is that if you’re not showing off or you’re not flaunting how much money you have and whatnot buy buying the lavish things and ‘stuntin’, then no one will truly believe that you have it like that; they respect what they see, but of course success breeds envy. In the Breakdown/Outro when he’s chanting that he needs you to love him, I get a sense that he needs the attention from all of the expensive things he has so that you understand that he has money. The thing is that’s how people think in real life, so he brought some things to light that a bunch of people would have bypassed.
What I’ve been thoroughly impressed with this album up to this point is that the production value & songs themselves feel (for the most part) jus natural and in his element. It’s something that as a fan (new or old) you can at least get an understanding as to who J.Cole is on a personal level besides just stories being told; that’s what Hip Hop was essentially praised for during its start-up – being honest. Speaking of honesty, let’s be real for a moment, J.Cole has a lot of money, so we can sit here and say “he’s such a humble guy” and so on, but I think he needs to reiterate that he’s not in the struggle anymore. Ain’t That Some Shit established that with an early 2000s Timbaland vibe. I can’t lie, this has a wicked bounce to it, but I know somewhere down the line, it’s just going to be one of those tracks that I skip over just because I can see where it will get annoying at some point – but for right now, it’s tolerable and a Harlem Shaker (a fast one at that, I almost snapped my shoulders).
Crooked Smile was the 2nd single (I guess you could say it’s a single) that was released by Cole before the album release, and having TLC on it was pretty random, but listening to the context of the song and how it’s about accepting your flaws (physical and all), it reminded me ‘Unpretty’, which is a TLC song that deals with women having to accessorize themselves for the sole purpose of impressing someone else because they’re not comfortable in their own skin – much what J.Cole is emphasizing here
“You can buy your hair if it won’t grow
You can fix your nose if he says so
You can buy all the makeup
That M.A.C. can make
But if you can’t look inside you
Find out who am I too
Be in the position to make me feel
So damn unpretty” – Unpretty
J.Cole has always been clowned for his looks whether it be his eyebrows or his teeth (I mean, remember The Grammys when he lost as Best New Artist?), but the fact that he embraces his physical flaws is what one can appreciate about the song and himself as a person
“I keep my twisted grill, just to show them kids it’s real
We ain’t picture perfect but we worth the picture still
I got smart, I got rich, and I got bitches still
And they all look like my eyebrows: thick as hell”
I like the message of this song, because it’s true – everyone should embrace themselves as people and just live their lives with little to no insecurities about their physical attributes, but the thing is – that’s not going to happen. If that were the case, then a lot of companies dedicated to making to ‘appear’ to look better would serve no purpose – it’s about sustaining a balance, but at the same time, there’s no reason why you can’t like who you are. Also, J.Cole is a celebrity and celebrities are portrayed to be flawless and full of elegance – Cole is far from that, and in the 3rd verse, he keeps it real by saying that no one is anymore high and mighty than the rest because we’re all full of flaws no matter your stature (have you seen some celebrities without make-up? It may hurt you). Because I was raised in church, whenever I hear a choir on essentially anything, my soul gets touched and I get goose bumps; that’s just natural, so having them come in at the end was nice.
In the beginning I mentioned a quote that would later on be used on a song, and that song is Let Nas Down. There was a bunch of hoopla saying that the there was a song called ‘I Disappointed Nas’, but Cole shot that down in interviews – well this is not that far from the rumour, but what a lot of reactions were to the song was that he was ‘dickriding Nas’, and here’s why I don’t agree with that. There were many people who drew comparisons to this song from Kanye’s ‘Big Brother’ off of Graduation (starting off the track almost the same way doesn’t help), and when you listen to it they have a point, because for the whole song it was Kanye venting out his frustrating working relationship with Hov, who was also an icon to him (listen to ‘Last Call’ “these are superstars in my eyes”). J.Cole is a few years older than I am, but he’s still in the generation of youth who grew up listening to Nas as a young kid and idolized him to the point where people were comparing him to Nas as a lyricist today because of that influence (I’m still not on that bandwagon). The opening bars are from ‘Nas Is Like’ (one of my favourites from him)
“Freedom or jail, clips inserted, a baby’s bein born
Same time a man is murdered, the beginning and end
As far as rap go, it’s only natural, I explain
My plateau, and also, what defines my name”
This is pretty much the defining song of the album, and a lot of it isn’t because of the Nas references and the fact that he ‘let down Nas’ by going with a commercial appeal single (Work Out) and Nas said he hated it (shit, I did too). I can imagine like if you’re a basketball player and your favourite player said something discouraging about you, I would think that you’d be upset by it. The only thing that I find funny about this is that he has a track about Nas, but he’s signed to Jay-Z – I just find that funny for absolutely no reason. What was interesting to hear was just the thought process he went through when it came to putting out his first album, because if you heard Friday Night Lights & Cole World: A Sideline Story, they were two different dynamics.
“I couldn’t help but think that maybe I had made a mistake
I mean, you made “You Owe Me” dog, I thought that you could relate”
You Owe Me is actually a wicked song, let’s just be clear about that. And when you’re an artist that was drawing comparisons to a legend like Nas before your first album debuts, why would you put out a commercial single just to get spins if you’re trying to get people to take you seriously? That’s hustling backwards, my man, but he got bank for it. I think this album was a reflection of the fact that he didn’t go with his heart and soul from his last project and decided to bring back ‘the real’ with himself to forgive himself of the musical sins (my ears need to be forgiven, to tell you the truth).
“I always believed in the bigger picture
If I could get them niggas to listen outside my core then I can open a door
Reintroduce ’em to honesty, show ’em that they need more
The difference between the pretenders and the Kendrick Lamars”
Everyone’s always looking for ‘the real, the real, the real’ hip hop – boom bap beats, drugs, guns, money, and hoes. It’s not always like that, because all of that can be perpetuated in a way that can come off as dishonest, because more times than not, a lot of rappers really aren’t about the life they speak about. What I believe Cole was trying to get at here was that he wanted to draw people into his thought process and the fact that open and honest raps were what was missing in the game, and that there are only so few who have the gift to keep it honest and perform well doing it (hence why he used Kendrick Lamar as an example). Nas being the benefactor of this song’s emotional theme pits Cole at his best but the fact that people see it as just a song that mentions Nas not liking one song will miss the point because it made him do some soul searching to rediscover himself to bring back the side of him that shouldn’t have left in the first place (thanks, Nas).
The final song of the album is Born Sinner which rounds up this very well done album (of the same title) up with the help of Cocaine 80s’ James Fauntleroy. Music is a passion that most have and are able to utilize in such a way that it’s the only thing that keeps their head on a swivel. Since his first album, he’s done a lot of self-reflection and looking back on what he has accomplished to this point, he understands which direction he wants to go in as far as being an artist is concerned. As stated in the beginning of this album, a born sinner is someone who’s the product of the ones birthing them, and oddly enough it all starts with a woman. The journey through life is to discover what one can do to ensure that their lives are made better to take with them to their graves – it’s a dark tone that shadowed around this album, but I think the purpose of this album was to rid Cole of his demons that have been haunting him through these first couple of years in the music industry. It’s not something that’s easy or easily adjusted to, but music provides the therapy and the fans will be the receivers of the vents recorded.
I like this album, because it incorporated a lot of styles from past Hip Hop albums, but still flipped it in his own manner. Production wise, there was growth, and where I can see where and why people won’t like this album is because it’s not as hard hitting all the time like Villuminati all the way through, and the pace of it does get slow at times, but it’s an album that really flows well and it’s sonically sound. Going back to The Come Up, The Warm Up, and Friday Night Lights, you wouldn’t look at Sideline Story as the album to reflect the stories being told on those 3 tapes. This is the album that reflects who Cole really is and what he’s about, and I’m glad that he took this approach to really give back to his fans and hopefully gain new ones because of the honesty behind it, and the fact that you don’t sense the fact that it’s ‘gimmick rap.’ It comes off as genuine and wholehearted, so I definitely respect the fact that Cole took the time off to create the album he wanted to create – soul and all. If you’re not a big J.Cole fan and you haven’t heard his music, I’d recommend listening to this if you’re looking for an honest rapper to appreciate, and if you’re a Cole fan of old, you’re finally breathing that sigh of relief that was tightly wound in the air pipes for quite a while. I’m going to buy this when it comes out to support what I think of ‘real raps’. But for now, this is my opinion, this is my review
That’s My Word & It STiXX
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