Album Reviews

J. Cole – Born Sinner

on June 21, 2013, 12:02am
j cole born sinner C-
Release Date

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 this paradise he paints for us, Cole isn’t Adam. He isn’t Eve. Even as he warns of slithering predators in “LAnd of the Snakes”, on Born SinnerCole is the serpent that lets us see the cost of having it all.

Because even as he watches his career progress, Roc Nation’s inaugural signee lives to prove his cunning. Fiercely aware of his environment, he pressed the release of this album a week to coincide directly with Kanye West’s Yeezus, wanting to go toe-to-toe with one of the greats. “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,” he continues on “Forbidden Fruit.” Cole professes to be a student of Machiavelli on opening track “Villuminati”; we can take each step of this album cycle as marketing mercenary, even if it took two drawn-out years between this and Cole’s debut.

He does display a Machiavellian egocentrism across the release. Though the album features a number of guest spots, including James Fauntleroy, TLC, Miguel, and Amber Coffman, “Forbidden Fruit” is the only track that gives a spot to a fellow rapper. Here, it’s Cole’s friend Kendrick Lamar, who delivers not a verse but the icy hook. Cole jumps on top for good measure. It’s all about him. Add to the mix his insistence to produce the tracks and one starts to wonder if he’s overextended himself. Cole is a whiplash-quick rapper, occasionally so clever you’re doing double-takes to his quips. But by the time “Crooked Smile” comes around, it sounds almost like an afterthought.

Cole envisions himself in a broader context, a “Martin Luther in the club.” He reaches for statements of love, death, and materialism—everything that’s simply passing. His heart is definitely there on tracks like “Trouble” and “Chaining Day”. But he sounds most bare, wounded on “Let Nas Down”, a track about finding out one of his heroes detested his early work. It gives Cole, up to this point a Career Average Joe, another opportunity to humble himself: “Long live the idols/ may they never be your rivals.” But later he adds, “This is for the nigga that said that hip-hop was dead/ I went to Hell to resurrect it/ how could you fail to respect it?”

So yes, Cole is conflicted. He reveres his idols but wants to be alongside them. Elsewhere, he prays to god but names the clip of televangelist Pastor Kerney Thomas a “skit.” He tries to prove you’re homophobic with an anal sex joke. He doesn’t know whether to settle down or to keep fucking around. He feels awkward around his boss’s wife talking about expensive cars. Even so, he’s got wealth now but doesn’t know how to handle it, and in a way, despises it. But that’s all in passing, right? Is love even real? What’s all this worth? Is success worth holding onto? Can you run away from everything you’ve built? Do you eat the apple or don’t you? “Damned if I do, damned if I don’t.”

Essential Tracks: “Forbidden Fruit”, “Let Nas Down”, “Chaining Day”, and “Villuminati”


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Andiamo P
June 28, 2013 at 11:58 am

I would give it a 4/5. Yeezus a 3/5.
Good Kid MAAD City would be a 5/5 for me

June 28, 2013 at 4:18 pm

You sound smart as hell!!

June 26, 2013 at 8:37 pm


Bryan Hume
June 24, 2013 at 2:58 am

It’s a powerful album, in my opinion – well thought out and the height of Cole’s creativity. I dig it and I loved all the collabs. Crooked Smile is my fave.

John A.
June 24, 2013 at 2:36 am

Lmao such a horrible review. It borders on hate really. I guess you missed the premise, didn’t like it, or just didn’t appreciate it? Idk. You don’t seem to be able to appreciate anything the kid does. Even disliking the people/way he chose to collab with on the album. GOD, I’m just glad you ain’t the dude who reviewed Yeezus.. Cuz that mothafucka got 5 stars for that ish..

June 24, 2013 at 1:15 am

J. Cole’s album is a classic, any hip hop, rap fan would know this. You, Mr. Writer should quit writing about things you do not know about. Your review was the equivalent to what I wrote as an undergrad and why I hated it.

June 21, 2013 at 5:12 pm

Rumors are going around the net that Kanye West just signed this guy,
apparently he met him in Hawaii while he was recording his new album
Yeesus. Levon West Mixxin.

June 21, 2013 at 5:07 pm

These white, gay, small town, NYC transplants can’t stop amazing me. How can you call this a review? Nothing about the production on the album was mentioned, possibly because the writer knows nothing about them, and can’t tell whether they were good or bad.. All we got here is a whole bunch of gibberish and contrived sentences that sound like the writer had the born sinner lyric book in front of him when he wrote the review.

Andiamo P
June 28, 2013 at 11:55 am

You sound dumb as hell….

June 21, 2013 at 3:18 pm

Thanks for the review though.

June 21, 2013 at 3:17 pm

No Disrespect brother/sister but your conclusion of your detailed review is rubbish After having to listen all 3 Almums (Cole, West & Mac) I rate Cole’s Album 4.5/5 , Kanye 3.5/5 and Mac’s Album 3/5.

Joshua James Stewart
June 22, 2013 at 8:02 pm

I’d give mac higher than that.

June 21, 2013 at 10:49 am

get off my fat dick bitch

Ms. Good Pussy.
June 21, 2013 at 12:17 pm

THAT FAT BUT SHORT ASS MEXICAN DICK. ROFLLLLLL, im still waiting for my taco fat fuck.

June 25, 2013 at 9:59 am

Bitch I’m Black wtf are you talking about?

Sasha H.
June 25, 2013 at 10:42 am


Rick Ferguson
June 21, 2013 at 10:01 am

You gave this a 3/5
Yeezus a 5/5
Like this man said, lost credibility.

June 21, 2013 at 8:26 am

you rated this a 3 out of 5? your website has no credibility now because this is easily the best rap album of the year by a mile


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