30 Second Reviews: First Impressions of J. Cole's "Born Sinner"

"Born Sinner" f/ James Fauntleroy

With skittering snares, noodling keyboards and synthesizers and general jazz-fusion feel, this is the archetypal Born Sinner song, appropriate for the title track. Cole raps about personal relationships, family, male-female relations, etc., thematic depth well-served by the gospel-clap coda that closes the record. And James Fauntleroy (one of Justin Timberlake's production partners) needs more gigs as a hook singer, as soon as possible.

On the whole, upon first listen, Born Sinner is a consistent album, and a well-conceived one. Cole haters—those who find him boring or conservative—will probably not be converted. But he’s such a humble, uncool guy relative to similar Kanye-diaspora artists like Drake, that it’s hard to feel any kind of dislike of the dude. He’s sincere, confident, and has developed a strong catalog through earnest openness. It remains a mystery to this writer why so many consider him a great lyricist; his strengths seem more in musicality, his likeability, and his ability to communicate in clean prose, rather than poetic. But it’s hard to deny he’s made perhaps his strongest record here.

Tags: j-cole
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