J Cole - Born Sinner - Album playback review

Tuesday 28th May 2013 |


Even as an established rapper, you might be considered slightly senile to put out your album on the same date as Kanye West, but this is exactly what Rocnation's J. Cole did when he heard that Mr West was releasing his 6th studio album a week after his.

Infact he deliberately pulled it forward a week just to coincide with the man we will soon know as “Yeezus”. With his mixtape, 'Friday Night Lights' bringing the Cole buzz to fever pitch in 2010, it was no wonder he was Jay Z's first signing to Rocnation. His debut release, “Cole World” sold over 218,000 copies in the first week alone. Now, 21 months later, Mr Cole gears himself up to bring a follow up offering, 'Born Sinner'.

Weaving through the London’s mid afternoon traffic, heading down to Dean street studios in the heart of the west end, we were privileged enough to be verbally escorted through Mr Cole’s latest offering by the man himself. He calmly sat on a stool, looking pretty low key in his hoodie, jeans, snapback and his Air Force 1 kicks. The only real giveaway sign to being a “certified” gold selling artist was his iced out Jesus piece, which he rocked confidently just to remind us that he ain't no ordinary rapper.

After cracking few jokes to break the ice (no pun intended) he began to explain some things - we talked inspiration, the 'process', and what it takes to craft that 'hit' track. Cole explained what it's like have Jay Z as a mentor and talked us through the whole 'experience'- he recalled starting work on his second album in a minimalisitc studio at the back of a tour bus with Tinie Tempah. He explained releasing his controversial single 'Workout' and why he had to make amends with Nas. Actually, he described how No I.D called him and demanded an explanation! The hit producer had had a talk with Nas - neither of them were onboard. In the end 'Workout' went on to do really well for Cole and, despite Nas' comments - "Why would he release something like that? - cutting deep, he's without regret.

He went out and vented himself on a track off the new album which, as the song title suggests, makes us think that Cole really had to get some things off his chest. With the album nearing completion, he knew that his 'Cole World' was working. He bumped into Nas as they were about to board a flight to LA from Houston, Texas. He just knew that the track was meant to be as he told us that this airport in Houston was rarely known for being very busy, let alone for the arrival of anyone important.

“Am a fan, man, his legend”, when I saw him I had to make him listen to this track”.

Upon the flight, Nas sat directly behind him in first class, listening to the song he had written about him and shaking Cole’s chair all the way in approval. “At the end of it Nas gave me that look, you know, like, wow”. J was blown away by Nas’ reaction and summed it up by saying, “you know when Nas approves it’s a big thing, I mean, he's a writer’s writer, he knew how deep I went in when I wrote that”.

'Born Sinner' will definitely deliver on all fronts. J keeps true to his style and offers the listener a remarkable recollection of his thoughts from the last three years. Having that unique talent of fine storytelling is something not a lot of guys can lay claim to. This is certainly a 'must download' for any hip hop head out there who likes rappers that keep it real, not 'Rolex rappers'.  

With him producing all of the tracks too, he let us know that this was a more personal offering than his previous efforts. With so much to give, all in one album, this was bound to get us nodding our heads in approval. Although at the moment we're not really allowed to give out any track names, we can definitely say that each song has been carefully crafted to take you on a beautiful path through the rapper's mind state as he journeys from dark to light.

Born Sinner is out June 17th, and you can check out the latest single here: