Review Roundup: J. Cole – ‘Born Sinner’

Born Sinner

Kanye West may be earning rave reviews for Yeezus, but don’t count out J. Cole. Jay-Z’s protégé is back for another round with his sophomore album Born Sinner. Cole enlists TLC, Kendrick Lamar, 50 Cent, and Jhené Aiko on the follow-up to his 2011 debut, while handling the bulk of production himself.

Did he win over the critics with his beats and rhymes? The reviews are in.

Rolling Stone: His riffs on racism, homophobia and misogyny have more lyrical cunning than insight. But when it comes to twisting himself into Kanye-size pretzels of career-oriented real talk, he’s a champ. 3.5/5

Los Angeles Times: J. Cole’s Born Sinner is at the other end of the universe from Kanye West’s latest—a quieter, self-examining rap record that’s short on audacity but long on workman-like singles. 2.5/4

USA Today: His themes of lust and temptation are soulfully and artfully realized on this sophomore effort. 3.5/4

Entertainment Weekly: He’s a talented, nimble rapper, but diatribes like “Trouble” and “Land of the Snakes” are more exhausting than impressive; too often he comes off like a strident high school jock with a word-a-day calendar. B-

The Boston Globe: Cole continues to flash terrific storytelling technique with a rich gift for language and a deepened worldview. His concerns are antithetical to booty-clap rap as he weaves complex rhymes about race, the contradictions of fame, and cultural stereotypes.

AP: Overall, Born Sinner is a treasure: Cole paints pictures with his superb rhymes and sets the mood nicely with his solid production.

Rap-Up’s Favorite Tracks: “Forbidden Fruit,” “Crooked Smile,” “Let Nas Down,” “Born Sinner”



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95 Comments

  1. mumi

    Yeezus blew out J.Cole’s fire.

    [Reply]

    Chauncey Reply:

    @mumi, Nah, the media is just sucking Yeezus off because of the name Kanye West. Cole is dope, may not go #1 but the album is great and will sell regardless.

    [Reply]

    iL0vee__ Reply:

    @mumi, A this is why Nas had expressed that Hip-hop was Dead …..
    Born Sinner is a way better album than whatever pieces of shit “Yezz” put out …
    Rolling Stones is a kiss as company meaning it only kisses well known rappers asses
    J.Cole is The best Rapper of Our Era,&& people needs to start realizing that
    RATE : 4.5/5 *Tupac would be Proud

    [Reply]

    Jay Reply:

    @iL0vee__, Exactly. Rolling Stone has always given dodgy reviews to classics.I remember when Illmatic first dropped and they gave it like a 4star or something, whilst LA Times ripped into it with a bias review cos it wasn’t from the West Coast.Am not surprised they gave Cole average reviews, They suck up to the brand.

    Yeezus is alright and I like what he tried to do but Born Sinner will be a modern Hip-Hop classic. I’m usually one of those moaning old school hip-hop heads who -rightly imo- beats down on the industry state atm. I couldn’t stand Cole’s first album having heard what he could do on his mixtapes, but Born Sinner is ill & it’s an album Hip-Hop has needed for years.

    Rating:4.5/5*

    [Reply]

  2. VukiMili

    Tbh I don’t know why people are comparing him to Kanye. Cause their albums came out on the same day?
    I prefer this album
    J Cole deals with reader feelings and I feel I can relate to him more because his stories are ones that everyone can relate to, it’s simple and nothing cocky
    Nothing boastful and cocky, not blowing himself out of proportion looking stupid

    [Reply]

    Wow Reply:

    @VukiMili, I agree. People are always quick to compare two artist. J. Cole has his own style & that’s what makes him J. Cole. Kayne has his own style & that’s what makes him Kayne. Sure, Kayne has great music, but J. Cole has him beat when it comes to personality. In the end that’s what makes J. Cole a winner. His attitude.

    [Reply]

  3. Damon

    Amazing album. Loved it. Cole world!

    [Reply]

  4. Phoenix Wright

    Epic. big step up from the last album.

    [Reply]

  5. angel

    Best album out of the 3. These reviews are biased! 4/5 for me. Def getting all 3.

    [Reply]

  6. JP

    Reviews asslicking Yeezus as usual. Born Sinner was better. And why is it RapUp’s favourite songs of an album always tend to be the radio songs

    [Reply]

  7. Raj

    Only reviews that know what the hell they’re talking about is USA Today, Boston Globe & AP. The others either clearly don’t appreciate conscious hip-hop when they hear it and that’s what’s wrong with society today.

    [Reply]

  8. Jake

    EW’s review is ridiculous.

    [Reply]

  9. GrownWoman

    Even though they hace the same release dates, I don’t like the comparisons between Cole and Kanye. They are two completely different artist with Kanye having a bigger rep and more credibility.

    The critics need to give Cole his props because Born Sinner is truly a gem!

    [Reply]

  10. Relly

    These reviews are crap. They’re judging his album as it compares to Kanye West. (Mac Miller’s album was released today as well and I bet most reviews won’t mention “Yeezus” or “Born Sinner”). Kanye’s albums is only greatly reviewed for it’s choice to give hip hop a more electro and acid-rock feel with Daft Punk and Rick Rubin’s production. Lyrically it’s just misogynic rambling and ranting. I’m a hugeee Kanye fan, but let’s not lie to ourselves because he’s Kanye.

    J.Cole’s album has great production as well (mostly from him) and lyricism on a multitude of topics… culture, fame, his career, comparisions, failures, flaws, women, his parents, etc.
    Did anyone listen to the lyrics or not care cuz it was too rap-y and not eccentric enough (why does hip hop need to be that. It’s bare hip hop and that’s fine. )

    A review here says “trident high school jock with a word-a-day calendar”. Really, why…he can’t know ‘big words’ because he looks like a nba player…funny those stereotypes are mentioned through his music. J.Cole also makes heavy usage of mentioning his college degree. He didn’t just graduate, but with honors. He’s not a high school kid trying to fill a sentence, he’s a man who finished at a university, magna cum laude and he talks/raps like he did.

    [Reply]

    Wow Reply:

    @Relly, all of this! Which goes back to what I said in the review roundup about Kanye’s album. What critics say don’t matter, it’s what consumers say and as it stands from my twitter timeline, it’s the general consensus that Born Sinner lyrically outshines Yeezus. I was disappointed in Kanye’s album. Not only because I’m a fan and that his last album was flawless IMO, but with such a grand title you would’ve thought this would’ve been the end all be all of kanye albums. That said I purchased Born Sinner. Not Yeezus.

    [Reply]

  11. Sm

    D track new york times is my favorite.gr8t album nd beta dan mr.west overrated dark twisted twinkle twerk urgly yecos
    new york new york!

    [Reply]

  12. Msa

    j cole killed born sinner,applause to him i fell inlove with the tracks

    [Reply]

  13. saio

    new school (j cole) > old school (kanye west)

    [Reply]

  14. flawda

    I don’t take critics, much less ”white media’s establishments” critique on hiphop serious. These are the same people who try to brainwash society into think Eminem is the greatest rapper ever.

    Born sinner is at worst a 4 out of 5 album.

    [Reply]

    Wow Reply:

    @flawda, bingo! Now don’t get my wrong, eminent is cool but he isn’t the greatest. Just quite possibly the angriest.

    [Reply]

    from france! Reply:

    @flawda, it’s not bc you’re white that you don’t know what rap is

    there is not only eminem as a white rapper, all over the world you can listen to a lot of white rappers so…

    And don’t mistake white medias who think that Eminem is the greatest for the white medias who know about music

    [Reply]

  15. carlos

    Born Sinner isn’t that good an album b stop lying to yourselves you disappointed in j cole just admit it

    [Reply]

    divinebrown Reply:

    @carlos, if Born Sinner isn’t that good, then Yeezus must be hot shit on a tin roof in 100 degree weather…

    [Reply]

  16. Lisa

    “His riffs on racism, homophobia and misogyny have more lyrical cunning than insight,” my only issue with Cole’s content perfectly worded by Rolling Stone. I feel like he takes on these sensitive subject matters, but then decides to not really go there.

    I think The Los Angeles Times wasn’t really fair to almost compare Born Sinner to Yeezus.
    I think most of the reviews were in accordance with what I thought of when listening to Born Sinner.

    [Reply]

  17. joe

    Yeezus is better. People need to stop hating on Kanye’s music just because they hate his guts. If you go deep into Yeezus and actually break down the themes in the album you’ll see that it’s a much better album than Born Sinner.

    Not hating on Cole, but I just feel that Kanye pushes the limits of Hip-Hop with every album he makes.

    Born Sinner is nothing surprising. The album overall is nice, but is exactly the kind of material I expected from Cole.

    Yeezus completely surprised me and after a hesitant start, I really began to enjoy the album after the third – fourth listen.

    Born Sinner – 3.5/5
    Yeezus – 4.5/5

    [Reply]

    Branden Reply:

    @joe, You’re a Kanye stan, so we already know you don’t know reality from your little fantasy world. If Yeezus is a 4.5, then Born Sinner is a 4.

    [Reply]

    joe Reply:

    @Branden, I feel as if I’ve heard every song on Born Sinner before. It’s nothing new. Yeezus is full of raw emotion and it clearly portrays kanyes bitterness.

    storytelling is great and all, but cole just tells all the same stories over and over again.

    i’d still give born sinner 3.5/5 to 4/5 because it’s better than most albums dropped recently and i’m sick of radio songs.

    basically what i’m tryna say is that yeezus was a better musical experience than born sinner, which just sounds like disjointed tracks in an album.

    you can all cry about how kanyes lyrics were wack, but overall he managed to put together an atmosphere with his album.

    [Reply]

    joe Reply:

    @joe, and everyone needs to stop hopping on the “hate this ngga”, “love this ngga” bandwagons.

    [Reply]

    joe Reply:

    @joe, PLUS, none of the songs on BS went as hard as Lost Ones did.

    [Reply]

    Wow Reply:

    @joe, please kanye isn’t talking about a damned thing. Just more arrogance as usual. Cole touched on social issues, kanye touched on “eating Asian pussy and needing sweet and sour sauce”. Yes production wise Yeezus is more creative but let’s not front like Born Sinner’s production wasn’t nice as well. Not to mention Cole produced it himself. Kanye doesn’t even make beats anymore. Kanye simply gave us 808 heartbeats with updated beats. Cole grew from the first album to the second.

    [Reply]

    divinebrown Reply:

    @joe, maybe i just need to give Yeezus 4-5 more spins, cuz upon my first listen i was OVER IT! i did like 4 songs though..

    [Reply]

    joe Reply:

    @divinebrown, Hold my liquor, blood on the leaves, guilt trip, black skinhead. Such great songs.

    The instrumental outro on Hold my Liquor gives me goosebumps every damn time.

    [Reply]

    joe Reply:

    @joe, for me, BS just wasn’t as exciting as Yeezus. That’s why I rated Yeezus better.

    [Reply]

    Anonymous Reply:

    @joe, Your joking right? Hold my liquor has to be the worst song on the album. Thats what I cant stand.. If you like Kanye’s beat selection then say that dont confuse the beat with the actual lyrics he’s spitting.. Kanye pushed the limits with this album and it was a fail.. Its amazing that people like it..same people that hated 808′s and heartbreaks.. It’s the same type of techno-ish vibe… People are being biased because he’s Kanye.. The album at is best is a 3/5 maybe even a 2.5.. It’s not a solid album and if you only like 3 or 4 songs out of 10 songs.. there’s no reason for this conversation.. Since his album is so GREAT EVERY SONG SHOULD BE GREATNESS!

    [Reply]

    joe Reply:

    @Anonymous, every song was greatness.

    it doesn’t matter what part of the song i liked, whether its the beat or the lyrics. the entire thing is HIS SONG. all you so called “hip-hop heads” need to stop breaking songs up into seperate parts and enjoy the entire thing as a musical experience. this isnt a goddamn dissection.

    Yeezus is basically about Kanye claiming that he’s become a god representing the kind of lifestyle that the urban african american culture idolizes, yet it doesn’t bring him any satisfaction. if you cant understand the greatness behind this album then stick to trinidad james, because thats the kind of hiphop that you “fans” have created.

    [Reply]

    joe Reply:

    @Anonymous, yeezus goes through so many social concepts that uneducated a*s hood rats have no hope of understanding.

    [Reply]

  18. Thedon

    Born Sinner > Yeezus

    [Reply]

  19. eric davis

    The differences between Born Sinner & Yeezus

    I’m a man of the people, not above but equal- Cole

    I am a God- Yeezus

    [Reply]

    Wow Reply:

    @eric davis, well said.

    [Reply]

  20. HonestyExplicit

    If you think Yeezus is better than Born Sinner you need to seriously reevaluate your musical standards.

    [Reply]

  21. calii

    Born sinner is so much better than yeezus it’s not even funny..

    [Reply]

  22. Amanda

    In all honesty, Yeezus ain’t touching Born Sinner…Cole is getting his recognition for this one.

    [Reply]

  23. Dwayne

    Born Sinner is unanimously better than Yeezus

    [Reply]

  24. Maxx

    Born Sinner is better than Yeezus to me. *waits for Kanye hop ons to attack*

    [Reply]

  25. Brooke Mcqueen

    1) Born Sinner
    2) Watching Movies With The Sound Off
    3) Yeezus

    [Reply]

    Wow Reply:

    @Brooke Mcqueen, lmfaoooo!

    [Reply]

    Chauncey Reply:

    @Wow, Laugh to keep from crying, bruh. The truth shall set you fools free.

    [Reply]

  26. proceed

    born sinner is classic

    [Reply]

  27. aa

    this album is amazing

    [Reply]

  28. John

    For the love of God, simply because an album is ‘different’ or ‘edgy’ it doesn’t mean it’s immediately a good album. Kanye West produced an album that most would not have expected, this does not in any way mean it’s a good album. It most definitely lacked depth, was often repetitive and as usual narcissistic. Yet reviews will continue to a*s lick Kanye and hail it as a masterpiece, it’s disappointing from those who claim to be experts. Born Sinner on the other hand, is a very good rap album, great lyricism and masterful storytelling as you would expect from a RAP album yet it doesn’t get half as good reviews, this is laughable.

    [Reply]

    Tel Reply:

    @John, exactly.

    [Reply]

    Wow Reply:

    @John, true indeed but WE as the consumers are saying otherwise. They were licking Kanye’s ass before the album even dropped with those album sale projections of 500K. Let’s see if this happens.

    [Reply]

    Anonymous Reply:

    @John, AGREED!

    [Reply]

  29. Omar

    This will be the album that finally gets Cole the Grammy he wants. Had to preorder the deluxe this time around … Fayetteville niggas made me learn the hard way back in 2011

    [Reply]

  30. pete

    yeezus sucks trasssh ,j cole album is better

    [Reply]

  31. pete

    waiting for jayzs album

    [Reply]

    Ryan Reply:

    Yup

    [Reply]

  32. Ice

    TBH, neither Yeezus or Born Sinner are worth buying. I’m hoping Jay-Z’s album isn’t a disappointment.

    [Reply]

    Trace Reply:

    @Ice, Born Sinner isn’t a disappointment. But…ya know, go back to your Chief Keef and Soulja Boy.

    [Reply]

    Ice Reply:

    @Trace, Born Sinner was a disappointment for me, whether you like it or not. It was a disappointment, because I’m a huge fan who expected greatness based on Power Trip and the Truly Yours EPs. I have never disliked any of Cole’s projects, but this album felt weak to me. Also, I am strongly against artists like Soulja Boy and Chief Keef. Part of my complaint with Yeezus was the fact Chief Keef was on it. Don’t try to assume peoples taste in music based on an opinion.

    [Reply]

  33. Kyle

    I bought the deluxe version at Target today but have barely listened to it because I’m still listening to Kelly Rowland’s. #R&Balldayeveryday

    [Reply]

    Wow Reply:

    @Kyle, now I have her album as well and it was a step down from Here I Am IMO. I STILL listen to that album, straight through. She does have some gems on this album though, I will not lie.

    [Reply]

  34. Reviews on Yeezus Vs Born Sinner | Fly To Cloud City

    [...] latest—a quieter, self-examining rap record that’s short on audacity but long on workman-like singles. [...]

  35. carlos

    regardless of reviews and it releasing on the same day as mac miller and kanye west the production is good but nothing new or outstanding from his previous beats, his raps are forgettable and not on par compared to his early mixtape raps and as a whole the album just doesnt excite me
    he shouldnt of hyped the album up so much and tried to challenge kanye west

    [Reply]

    Ewan Reply:

    @carlos, And Kanye’s flaming shit wasn’t hyped up? Have a seat, bruh. You know nothing.

    [Reply]

    carlos Reply:

    @Ewan, kanye himself hasnt hyped the album hes just released it and yeezus did live up to the hype look at the reviews it got and in my opinion it is a awesome album

    [Reply]

    Anonymous Reply:

    @carlos, the reviews aren’t a good reflection of what hip hop/rap is. Production wise, Kanye was better a lot better, no one can probably do any better. But Coles album should deserve more credit than it is given, a lot more because of the fact that it is real hip hop: it has lyrical depth.

    [Reply]

    carlos Reply:

    @Anonymous, the phrase “real hip hop” is so stupid what do you even mean by that.
    a good way to decide if “born sinner” is a good album is how would you compare it to “good kid maad city”

    [Reply]

    joe Reply:

    @carlos, gkmc > born sinner

  36. rill

    Not gonna compare it to Yeezus, but production wise this album could have been a little tighter more cohesive then what he gave out. His lyrics are great Cole talks about real life situations, but beside that nothing stands out best tracks Power Trip, Crooked Smile, Let Nas Down, and Forbidden Fruit…He’ll only get better, but don’t put this out against Mr. West if its not tight

    [Reply]

    Nathan Reply:

    @rill, “Mr. West” delivered nothing for true hip-hop….if you’re into rock and emo fuckshit, you’ll likely think it’s dope.

    [Reply]

    rill Reply:

    @Nathan, I feel like a lot of people upset with yeezus only listen to hip-hop and that’s cool y’all probably didn’t like 808 either. I listen to all types of music that’s why this album is so great to me because like many new artist today (Ocean, Tyler, Miguel etc.) he mixing different sounds and eras together. J. cole album is hip-hop, but in no way is it a classic its okay, but nothing new not like GKMC

    [Reply]

  37. edem

    Do they(media) listen to hip hop than the streets? We are better pundits in our own right #born sinner

    [Reply]

  38. Ricky

    I’m very satisfied with the album. Definitely a step up from Cole World. Unfortunately there aren’t enough people who appreciate real rap/hip-hop, a true work of art. I hope I’m wrong, Born Sinner should be #1 album, it should outsell Yeezus.
    4.5/5 hands down

    [Reply]

  39. Brionna

    Fromm what i’ve heard so far ‘m not crazy about either one of them

    [Reply]

  40. Dan

    Born Sinner > Yeezus by a mile.

    I wish Cole luck at the Grammy’s, but remember, Kendrick is guaranteed in that category, as well as Drake (if he drops by August 31).

    [Reply]

  41. Ras

    Its not about lyrics anymore. Its about a hot beat and a catchy hook…done

    [Reply]

    Anonymous Reply:

    @Ras, Frankly that just depresses me… greatly!

    [Reply]

  42. Julio

    The moment wen rap/hip hop changes its meaning. It went from being a lyrical expression with depth meanings to just having catchy beats. And apparently that is what makes an album a masterpiece.

    [Reply]

  43. Vivi

    Born Sinner is deff at the top of the list. Clearly they are not fans and are being biased with their judgements.

    [Reply]

  44. Jlinz

    Born sinner is a good album but all the damn songs sound similar to each other kanye album is better production wise The thing With J cole he really needs to work with other producers cuz he sucks producing his own music he cant make a hook to save his life.

    [Reply]

    rill Reply:

    @Jlinz, This is the same thing I’m saying if his production was better this album could be a classic its just lacking in some areas where see his competitors Mac and Ye production seem better IMO

    [Reply]

  45. JPeenutz

    There isn’t a bigger fan of kanye’s music than me. and I’m sayin born sinner>>>>yeezus. just keepin it real.

    [Reply]

  46. YO

    J. Cole is not for everyone. He makes heartfelt storytelling music not your basic club bangers. His subject matter is not a “standard” one.

    [Reply]

  47. TIPP

    Instant Classic. Give me albums that were better and i bet that all of those albums were legendary which only means his album is legendary too… especially coming from a nerdy kid, that has gangster tendencies… by nerdy im talking about him graduating magna cum laude from university. #bornsinner

    [Reply]

    joe Reply:

    @TIPP, gkmc was an instant classic. born sinner isn’t at that level.

    [Reply]

    Issa Reply:

    @joe, That’s your opinion. It’s a classic to Cole fans, just as GKMC is a classic to K. fans. You don’t have to knock one down to boost another up. That is what’s wrong with hip-hop today.

    [Reply]

    joe Reply:

    @Issa, I’m not knocking one down to boost the other. BS was a great album, but you have to set the standard for an album to be ‘classic’. There hasn’t been a hip-hop album at the gkmc level for many many years now.

    [Reply]

  48. Beyonce

    SURE WISHED I WAS ON THIS ALBUM THO… :(

    [Reply]

  49. COnde

    I´m OUT, Artcover demon O_O

    [Reply]

  50. Leah

    Born sinner is a much better album. It’s hard to compare the two because they were so different though. There were what ? Maybe 4 songs on yeezus that were remotely good. Blood on the Leaves, Bound 2, Im in it, and send it up. The rest was pure trash. J cole is the most talented rapper I have ever heard and his album is amazing. The lyrics, the things he talks about is just… Perfect. I both cried and laughed during the time I was listening to it. Kanyes best song couldnt even compare to Coles “worst song” I loved every single song and every single minute of it . If Kanye gets more sales , I think it will e because of his fan base , and WHO HE IS, rather than the actual music. But I think J Cole has proven himself, not that he needed to.

    [Reply]

  51. Yeezytoldme

    I wish J. Cole would leave some of the songs on truly yours and truly yours 2 on the born sinner album. Truly Yours (2) IMO is better than Born sinner. call it crazy but I would sub into Bornsinner “Cole Summer” “Kenny Lofton” “Stay (2009)” “Rise Above” & “Head Bussa” for “runaway” “trouble” “LAnd of the Snakes” “rich N*ggaz” and “She Knows” with that, Cole has a bomb-ass album

    [Reply]

  52. Justakid

    “You n*ggaz famous on the internet, im real life hot.” – J. Cole

    [Reply]

  53. KID

    J. Cole album is great. From the first track I knew i could bang this all the time. He spits nothing but real life. Unfornuately J. Cole is after his time. He doesnt get the proper respect that he deserves. Any who I dont care what the critics say. They just critics that have a opinion that doesnt reflect mine. J. Cole is my truth and what i live.
    H

    [Reply]

  54. RWcbp0spNstG

    378171 470351Fantastic article. I appreciate your attention to this subject and I learned a great deal 451960

    [Reply]

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