Top of the Pops: Born Sinner


August 19, 2013 by NowhereButPop

By Khalid Bennett

When we are born, we are born with a clean slate. The newborn has done nothing good; nothing bad. It’s just a newborn waiting to experience what life is all about based on his choices and influences. Everyone would probably agree to what I just said, whether you are religious or not. One hip-hop artist believes that we are born sinners, and his name is J. Cole.

J. Cole has been in the hip-hop game since 2007.  He was the first rapper signed to Jay-Z’s Roc Nation label. He was also a member of the 2010 XXL Magazine Top Ten Freshmen. A hip-hop artists with all those accolades, J. Cole seemed to have promise. The problem was that he was still considered underground and not mainstream. How could that be? He had three mixtapes and was featured in some good songs including “All I Want Is You” by Miguel. His first album, Cole World: A Sideline Story, quietly went gold with a lot of anticipation. His single “Work Out” has and still is his most successful single, chartwise. Since then, everyone knows his name.

I’m a pretty big fan of J. Cole. He’s actually become one of my favorite artists to listen to. I became a fan when listening to Friday Night Lights and even more of a fan when I listened to his first album. I really thought it was one of the best albums in 2011. Since then, I was hoping for a next album pretty soon. He did release some EPs and then the big announcement of his next album, which is called Born Sinner. This was one of my most anticipated albums of 2013. So anticipated, that I actually bought the album. It’s the first album I have bought since 2010. It had to be great for me to actually buy an album. Born Sinner consists of 16 tracks, with five bonus tracks in the deluxe edition.

I finally bought it and listened to it on my way to work one day. I am already claiming Born Sinner as one of the best albums of 2013. Okay, maybe not the best album overall, but definitely in hip-hop. I’m already calling it a classic, or at least close to a classic.

This whole album is what J. Cole is all about. I love albums that don’t exemplify the direction hip-hop is going right now. No mentioning about material things, big booty hoes, or twerking. J. Cole always raps about real issues. It seems like he has fun rapping about whatever he raps about. Born Sinner sounds like a story, or at least a bunch of stories. Some of the topics covered include love, society, money, amongst other things.

The production of Born Sinner is fantastic. What most people don’t know is that J. Cole is also a producer. J. Cole produces his songs for the most part. He produced 13 of the 16 tracks, with additional production from Jake One and Syience, amongst others. You can tell a J. Cole produced song. There’s just a unique sound to a J. Cole track; a little mix of new school with old school. I’m just glad that it doesn’t sound like the crap I hear on the radio most of the time. All the songs on Born Sinner sound really good. I’m actually surprised that about 10 tracks had used samples, which really isn’t a problem to me, even though originality is a plus. Still, it is very, very rare to have an album where every song sounds at least decent.

Once again, it really seems like J. Cole wanted to make Born Sinner all about him. He only had four featured artists in his last album. Well he one-uped that and has five featured artists (eight if you count the five bonus tracks). The featured artists include James Fauntleroy, Amber Coffman, TLC, Miguel, and Kendrick Lamar.

Here is the tracklist:

1. Villuminati*- a great way to start out the album…the beat goes really hard…very good flow and lyrics and good use of The Notorious B.I.G. and R. Kelly as samples

2. Kerney Sermon (Skit)- just a skit and the beat leads to the next song

3. Land Of The Snakes*- the beat is so simple and relaxed

4. Power Trip* (feat. Miguel)- my favorite track on the album…a simple song about love with a simple chorus featuring Miguel…the second single featuring these two

5. Mo Money (Interlude)- I really like the message in this interlude…I like the way he talks about the different ways money is made and obtained by people, good or bad

6. Trouble- good beat…it’s listenable

7. Runaway- it’s listenable

8. She Knows (feat. Amber Coffman)- it’s listenable

9. Rich Niggaz- it’s listenable and the beat is a little different and softer than the previous tracks

10. Where’s Jermaine (Skit)- another skit

11. Forbidden Fruit (feat. Kendrick Lamar)- the only problem with this song is that I wish Kendrick Lamar did his own verse but he just does the chorus…good song overall

12. Chaining Day- it’s listenable

13. Ain’t That Some Shit (Interlude)- lyrically well done with a hard beat

14. Crooked Smile (feat. TLC)*- a song that is doing really well on the radio…the song was meant to be a single and be on the radio…nice to here TLC on a track

15. Let Nas Down- a response to Nas hating his track “Work Out”. J. Cole states Nas as one of his idol and he felt really bad that Nas didn’t like “Work Out”. It’s J. Cole saying that he’s sorry that he upset his idol

16- Born Sinner- it’s listenable and a nice way to end the album, considering that the album is named Born Sinner


9.4/10- Excellent

Overall, Born Sinner is by far the best hip-hop album of 2013 (so far). It might even stay that way by the end of the year. I am glad that J. Cole sticks to his roots and doesn’t copy the lame hip-hop styles of today. I really think he is one of the best hip-hop artists today and he is only going to get better. I know a lot of people think he’s still underrated or not as popular as Drake, Rick Ross, Lil’ Wayne, or any other popular rapper today but I believe that is a good thing. Let him stay like that. One day he’ll be considered one of the best. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.


One thought on “Top of the Pops: Born Sinner

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