By Terence Elliot-Cooper / @terryec91
US Hip-hop has undergone a major shift in the last few years, with a bunch of new faces emerging as the main players in the industry. The commercial side of hip-hop is diversifying, with artists such as Kendrick Lamar, Big Sean, 2 Chainz and J.Cole all becoming as successful as their mentors and collaborators, Jay-z and Kanye West. Roc Nation’s first signing J.Cole last month released his second studio album, Born Sinner. With hit singles Who dat, and Work Out thrusting him into the charts in 2011, Cole has featured as a guest rapper on a number of singles, so had a lot to prove with Born Sinner.
By way of promoting the album, last month Cole went on a 10 city tour entitled, the ‘Dollar and a Dream tour’, where tickets were only one dollar and sold on a first come first serve basis, with the venues announced on the day via twitter. This unusual way of showcasing his new album, ensured that fans got an intimate gig, at negligible cost.
Born Sinner’s first single release was Power Trip, which features stunning vocals from Miguel, another breakthrough artist who has recently been making waves with his unique style of R&B. This follows up from the pairs’ previous collaboration, All I Want Is You. Power trip has been getting a lot of airtime on the radio, and the second release is proving just as popular – Crooked Smile is a sweet song with an empowering message, both self-effacing yet positive. This is why TLC, known for their hits waterfalls and unpretty, are a perfect partnership in singing the hook. In Crooked Smile Cole recognises the struggles that society puts women through in regards to their physical appearance.
This is what Born Sinner is all about, powerful topics disguised amongst calm chorus’, created by Cole’s superb flow. Another one to look out for is Forbidden Fruit, which features Kendrick Lamar, the only other rapper to have a release that successfully rivals Cole’s. Forbidden Fruit samples A Tribe Called Quest’s classic, Electric Relaxation, and Kendrick brings the same smooth tones to Cole’s record as he did to his own, good kid, m.A.A.d City. This pairing can only bode well for their rumoured forthcoming joint mixtape.
Born Sinner is one of few albums which can be listened to on repeat, and every single song appreciated. The vary of tones is well thought out, as is the number of collaborators. It seems to be a record with no lukewarm tracks; verses on Runaway and New York Times are particularly good.
A final highlight of the album is Let Nas Down, an ode written for the Hip-hop legend by Cole after hearing that Nas disliked his first single, Work Out. Cole’s verses are heart warming without being cheesy, and the roaming saxophone makes this a great track. Nas himself gives us a sign of Cole’s potentially prosperous future in his remix of the track: ‘You ain’t let Nas down/Its just part of the game, becoming a rap king…/How that sound, here’s the crown/pass it to you like its nothing’.
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