Confidence and doubt. Dignity and regret. Humbleness and recklessness. Those are just some of the emotions explored on J. Cole’s sophomore album, Born Sinner.
The album serves as a brutally honest admission and explanation for some of the decisions he has made in both his public and his personal life since rising to fame. It is a balancing act between temptation and the consequences that follow. It is, in his own words, an opportunity to reintroduce himself.
On one hand, he does not shy away from relishing the life of a rap star and the perks that come with it, but on the other, he is shameful of the path he took to achieve it and its impact on his personal life.
“It’s much darker this time,” Cole says in the first line of the album.
While there is a natural progression from beginning to end, Cole is not lying when he announces the tone of the project.
After using the first couple of tracks to set the stage, the darkness emerges with “Runaway,” a solemn confession to his committed and patient girlfriend of not being faithful. The track transitions smoothly into “She Knows,” giving Cole a chance to showcase his regret. He then continues to question his journey up to this point in his career with “Rich N****z.”
“Henny don’t really kill the pain no more. Now I’m Cobain with a shotgun aimed at my brain cause I can’t maintain no more. Tad bit extreme, I know. Money can’t save your soul.”