Label: Roc Nation / Columbia Records
Production: J. Cole
Written By Kyle Renwick
“It’s way darker this time” J. Cole declares as his second studio album, Born Sinner, opens to “Villuminati.” Those words couldn’t be truer as Cole clings to themes of moral dilemma and frustrated love affairs through most of the album. He delves head first into the album with introspective lyrics on his lowly upbringing, relationship experience and personal insecurities; leaving desperate lines about newly acquired riches by the waist-side.
Cole’s subject matter and flow distinguish him amongst his rap contemporaries and has a nostalgic quality that is sometimes endearing and at other times dreary. He doesn’t complicate his rhymes with too many metaphors or double meanings. Instead, he takes a straightforward approach to storytelling. He accentuates that style on “Mo Money (Interlude),” which is probably his most direct and unforgiving track on Born Sinner. The track features bars about “the root of all evil,” that cut through its graveyard like instrumental. Yet, the song’s only given one minute and 18 seconds to breath and squanders most of it’s potential.
Cole’s production makes a notable improvement on Born Sinner. But what he offers in quality, he loses in tempo. The beats are subtly intricate and include layers of sampling that might only be appreciated by a refined listener. However, on this project, they are also consistently slow. Cole tries to provide the album with a spark with “Aint That Some Shit,” which has a light, bouncy affect, but it’s too little, too late, as the 13th song on the album. Tonal variety is definitely something Cole will need to improve upon if he hopes to become a more well-rounded producer.
By the time we reach “Forbidden Fruit,” the 11th of 16 songs, Cole doesn’t have much left to offer. With the exception of “Crooked Smile” and “Let Nas Down,” the last five songs hold over the album, but don’t add value to the overall project.