Jermaine Cole’s sophomore album Born Sinner, has features from the likes of Kendrick Lamar, Miguel, Amber Coffman, TLC, James Fauntleroy, 50 Cent, Bas and Jhené Aiko. With this album, Cole proves that he still remains a lyrical “Picasso”. In order to truly enjoy this album, one must fully delve into listening to the lyrics and not look for attractive hooks or dynamic production to keep a listener in tune. In all actuality upon my first listen, this album was downright boring. Quite frankly, Cole has always been a lyrical artist so there was no surprise in listening to his stories through his verses. The real setback of this album is the production. Cole produced nearly the entire album himself and it shows with the lack of change in tempo or instrumentals utilized throughout the project. In addition to the lifeless production, the project feels lengthy. 16 songs isn’t over-the-top but, when 14/16 songs are slow paced and contain no catchy, or upbeat hooks, the album feels like 200 songs.
The first track Villuminati is an upbeat song that displays Cole’s lyrical prowess and his ability to deliver. Considering this is the introductory track, this leads a listener to believe we’re getting an album of this caliber unfortunately, this is not the case. After Villuminati we’re taken into the Kerney Sermon (Skit). (Fans familiar with previous J.Cole projects will remember a similar skit). This skit is a complete change of tempo from the first track and leads into Land of The Snakes. This track continues with the changed tempo and Cole’s flow is no longer aggressive or upbeat. THIS track is the tempo and flow to expect for the duration of the project. As you listen through the album and reach about track 8 or 9, hopefully you’re not asleep from the boring production and flow combination. There is no change of tempo until you reach track 13 Aint That Some Shit (Interlude) which is one of my favorite tracks on the project and isn’t even produced by Cole. The transition of story from Chaining Day to the beginning of the Aint That Some Shit is done flawlessly with a simple “Okay I lied”. This interlude is placed seamlessly as an ‘alarm clock’ to the listener and seems to be a breath of life from Cole but, after this interlude, we all immediately press our Snooze buttons and return to the heavy-eyed J.Cole production.
As I listened to the album a few more times and focused more on the lyrics, the album began to glisten. Every track other than Aint That Some Shit is a piece of art from “Picasso”. Let Nas Down highlights how Cole feels about his career and the music industry. In my opinion, this track shows his inspiration for his entire project. With this album, Cole does not sacrifice his artistic integrity for radio plays and is trying to prove a point. I highly respect Cole for holding his ground with his music and not falling into the dark abyss known as the mainstream. The placement of this track also leads me to believe that THIS track should be the true ending, but to keep with the theme of his project he ended with Born Sinner. After listening to Let Nas Down, the album almost seems like an apologetic album to himself, Nas, and his fans for side stepping his integrity for fame and radio plays and to expect Cole to stay true to who he is as an artist and not succumb to the “big booty hoe” tracks. Ending on this type of note would leave listeners anticipated for Cole’s next project and also have some sorts of expectations for his next set of tracks.
This album is high in terms lyrical content but, very low in terms of production. Born Sinner became a more enjoyable listen with actively focusing to Cole’s lyrics and stories but no amount of content will change his slow paced production. With rumors of a joint Kendrick Lamar x J. Cole project coming out, the least he should have done was let K.dot have a verse in Forbidden Fruit. A verse would have gotten listeners excited for this rumored album but alas, another let down within this project. Although Born Sinner isn’t bad, there is no distinguishing element that would make me want to return to this project for more listens. Sorry “Picasso”.