Music — 20 June 2013
J. Cole’s Born Sinner: Take on Young Simba’s Latest

This is a Kyles Files prediction.

You will enjoy listening to “Born Sinner.”  Amid the minefields of using the terms “faggot,” “bitch” and the n-bomb with the zeal of lesser MCs, there is promise.  (In the case of that ill-advised, ignorant f-bomb, I sorely wish Cole had re-thought the terrible verse in “Villuminati,” which otherwise would have been my favorite track.)

Most importantly, there is storytelling.  And he is– unlike some of his peers including #startedfromthebottom Drake– likable.

But he’s no doormat. Cole is “The Game” with a touch more humility.  You could break your leg tripping over the constant name drops, from the Jay-Z laden refrain in “Villuminati” to the entire song devoted to his (ahem) sorrow over disappointing Nas.  I don’t know, but I somehow imagine Nas somewhere cringing in embarrassment at the latter ode.  It must be like when Game, excommunicated from Chronic camp due to his 50 Cent beef, poured his soul out in “Doctor’s Advocate,” calling Dr. Dre’s name in vain. Awkward.

Another annoying point is his co-opting of 90s beats.  I get, and appreciate, that he emulates god MCs and producers like Tribe Called Quest and Outkast.  In fact, I think what’s wrong with rap is that it’s a “young art form” that feels it must cast off its predecessors in order to stay fresh.  But Cole goes a half-step too far in the other direction.  He has an admirable flow, but “Land of the Snakes” (sampling “Da Art of Storytellin'” and “Forbidden Fruit” (sampling “Electric Relaxation”)  on the same effort are overkill.  I will acknowledge that he and Kendrick Lamar do an excellent job collaborating on the latter and I hope they can remain tight, despite industry efforts to pit the two young talents against one another.

Finally, though I would rather hear about Cole’s money problems, angst about selling out than the ig’nance that is 2Chainz on any given Sunday, he really sounds like that #firstworldproblems meme with some of his whining and the issues he raises in “Sparks Will Fly.”  Complaining about public perception of your crooked teeth?  Comparing that to the struggles women feel in a society where they are judged solely on looks?  No sir.  Not hardly.

Do not get me wrong.  I enjoyed the album.  I wouldn’t even bother with this write-up if I didn’t.  I prefer listening to any track on it to spending a second hearing any of the hot rubbish roasting on radio airwaves today (“Tapout,” this means you.)  I’m pulling for Young Simba.  As I stated earlier this week, I support rappers and producers who are working to make art, to shake up the system.  The other fools just trying to make quick money with disposable and occasionally horrifying lyrics, well, to paraphrase Kanye West: I just wish they’d tuck their whole summer in.

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