Sometimes success isn’t satisfying. J.Cole crafted his second album Born Sinner to right the wrongs of his Cole World: Sideline Story 2011 debut. No more stop-and-go single releases and pleading with Roc Nation for a release date, Jermaine’s got gold and platinum plaques on the wall which gave him the opportunity to do things his own way this time around. After a brief misstep with “Miss America,” Cole proved he was worthy of independence.
Paired with Miguel, “Power Trip” is the best rap song of the year if “Started From The Bottom” never happened. It’s a pretty perfect single that still sounds as fulfilling as it did when it dropped on Valentine’s Day. Almost as engaging is the current airplay champ “Crooked Smile” where Cole defends his grill’s imperfections and relates it to the pressures women go through in society as they are judged by their beauty. With these two strong singles, Cole’s styled on us.
Yup the confidence is up as evidenced by the vigorous opener “Villuminati” but the sense of humor is also intact. Cole recalls a convo with Mrs. Carter: “Beyonce told me she want to cop the blue Bugatti/That shit is more than what I’m worth/I think she knew it probably.” Y’all already know how Cole “Let Nas Down”; what a great team he and Kendrick Lamar make (“Forbidden Fruit”) and how Cole was super ballsy in making an OutKast classic his own with “Land Of Snakes.”
Still the heart of this album revolves around relationships. “Trouble” talks about those enticing bad girls. “Runaway” is about struggling with infidelity and the next song, “She Knows” reiterates the same subject matter backed by a clever Cults-sample. Cole rhymes, “This is Martin Luther King in the club/Getting dubs/With a bad bitch in his ear/Sayin that she’s down for whatever/In the back of his mind is Coretta.”
No Cole isn’t ruling the rap game. But 2013 is the year, he truly became his own man. A gifted storyteller who can make commercial hits but still remain connected to his devoted fanbase who continue to expand daily. He coined the phrase “new legends” and won’t rest until he proves that sentiment to be true.—YN