Monday, November 11, 2013

Saints And A ‘Sinner

Most diehard Christians would tend to agree with the title of J. Cole’s second studio album, Born Sinner. Critics would be inclined to hate it based on his first album not hitting as hard as his mixtapes did.

Before the studio albums he gave us such classics like Friday Night Lights and The Warm-Up. I can remember some of my favorites like “Premeditated Murder”, “The Badness”, “Dreams”, and “In The Morning”.

I hoped for that in his second studio album Born Sinner and got it in spades.

Here in his sophomore album Cole does much of the production himself along with contributions by Jake One, Syience, and Elite. The samples on the album are rather intelligent picks and some are even surprising. But we’ll get to that in a few. Here are my top six tracks to listen to off this album.

LAnd Of The Snakes” samples an OutKast classic “Da Art Of Storytelling’ (Pt. 1)”. As a fellow Southerner I had to listen firstly based off that merit. J. Cole can be commended for emulating the sort of vibe that made OutKast a household name. His storytelling and eloquence is in full display on this one.

Power Trip” was one of my favorites since I heard it on MTV2 way before the album. The beat is off kilter to me but somehow it works. This track is sent out to the girl he had a crush on in his hometown. Miguel sings the hook and laces well amid the drums and J. Cole’s vocals.

Remember when I said I had a surprise? Here goes…

Crooked Smile” is an interesting track in many respects. One reason is that J. Cole is doing this song with TLC. I was extremely excited from that. Here Cole is assisted by Elite on production. The surprise is what song was sampled for this track. The song is Jennifer Hudson’s “No One’s Gonna Love You”. You don’t have to listen to the song long to find the sample.

Crooked Smile” is about accepting yourself, flaws and all. As with many concepts it has been done before but J. Cole does so in an eloquence that revives the concept of it again for a new generation.

Let Nas Down” speaks on a concept that many can relate to-disappointing an idol. In J. Cole’s case, his ideal is hip-hop legend Nas. He speaks of how he met Nas after years of listening to his raps and following his career. The story continues talking about J. Cole’s first big hit “Work Out” and how it was panned by Nas. This tale of disappointment is played over a sample from Fela Kuti’s “Gentleman”. In my humble opinion this may be the strongest song on the album.

Also check out: “New York Times”, “Sparks Will Fly”, and “Forbidden Fruit”.

J. Cole has crafted a well placed effort. Who knows? Someday we may hear a young rapper write “Let Cole Down

Written by Lucius Black for Royalty Magazine

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