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J. Cole – Born Sinner album review

For most rappers, it would be audacious to sample Biggie, compare themselves to Jay-Z, or to dedicate a track to Nas and yet on his sophomore album J. Cole does all three to great success. Born Sinner, out June 18th on Dreamville Records, is an opus filled completely with familiar J.Cole themes of inner conflict coupled with religious imagery and it is also head and shoulders above any hip hop release so far this year. Unlike his first album, Born Sinner carries a thematic darkness throughout and it results in some of the rapper’s best lines so far. On the opening track “Villuminati”, a hectic beat propelled by clattering drums, baleful strings and a Notorious B.I.G. sample, we hear Cole address homophobia, Trinidad James’ “All Gold Everything”, and even drop a “Boy Meets World” reference. In the first verse alone.

The whole album carries a darker tone than any of his previous releases from the cover art to the numerous gospel samples and church themed skits, going so far as to ask “Where’s Jermaine?”, a questioning skit about Cole’s alienation from his upbringing in Fayetteville, North Carolina. This is not to say that the album is inaccessible or anything short of an artistic triumph. Each song on the album would be a strong track on almost anyone else’s sophomore album so the stand outs on Born Sinner are especially potent with “Crooked Smile”, guest featuring TLC, being a pop ready hymn to imperfection and “Chaining Day” acting as an indictment of the materialism in the rap game today. Both of these however are secondary to what is indisputably the heaviest song on the album “Let Nas Down”. Biting the hook from Yeezy’s “Big Brother”, Cole vents about his freshman album and the experience of trying to make a radio friendly single. As he raps the intro, a play on “Nas Is Like” from Nas’ album “I Am…”, Cole lays out the story of his single “Work Out” and realizing after a phone call that he had let down one of his idols by selling out on his art just for a hit.

The only thing that remains to be seen is whether the album sees as much commercial success as it deserves. J. Cole has made one of the best hip hop albums in recent memories and despite guest appearances from names like TLC, James Fauntleroy and Kendrick Lamar, it is still very much a show about J. Cole. As much as he recalls his past in songs like “Land of the Snakes” or “Rich Niggaz”, it is clear that J. Cole has grown leaps and bounds as an artist since The Sideline Story. Be sure to cop Born Sinner; you won’t be disappointed.

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Big K.R.I.T. – King Remembered In Time mixtape review

A squealing guitar riff and crying baby are the first things you hear on the newest release from Meridian, Mississippi based rapper Big K.R.I.T. To call K.R.I.T. a rapper however is radically understating his widely varied talents. Of the 17 tracks on the album, only one track is produced by 9th Wonder (who has also produced for Kendrick Lamar, Murs, Drake and Ludacris recently to name a few), with the rest of the production being handled by K.R.I.T. himself. King Remembered In Time, also what K.R.I.T. stands for, is the title of the sixth mixtape K.R.I.T. has recorded in addition to his studio album that was released last year and gives listeners another soul soaked record filled with lush beats and introspective rhymes from the Def Jam signed MC.

As the tape begins K.R.I.T. tells us of his blue collar upbringing in Meridian and details to us his modus operandi on his search for purpose, also the title of the track. This is followed by “Shine On,” the first single featuring Bun B and while K.R.I.T. delivers a solid verse, Bun B steals the show with a flow sounding like it came fresh off Ridin’ Dirty, the timeless UGK album. It is two tracks later that the tape truly finds its step with standout track “King Without A Crown”, recalling earlier K.R.I.T. songs with a high wailing soul sample and thumping Southern bass notes sure to vibrate speakers from Mississippi to New York. This is followed by a James Blake sampling track called “REM” which showcases the unique introspective rhymes which characterizes K.R.I.T.’s independent releases, in addition to the soulful Southern beats that serve as the primary backdrop to said rhymes. Other stand out tracks include the symphonic “WTF” where K.R.I.T. gives us a glimpse into a life where “Perhaps you got some work/I ain’t talkin’ ‘bout nine to five, more like/soak and drive, baking soda powder pies” and “Multi Till The Sun Die”, an arena rock M83 sampling close to the tape in which KRIT not only shows us why he is one of the top young MC’s in the game but also can begin to stake a legitimate claim to the title of best producer in the game as well. Elsewhere on the tape Future, Wiz Khalifa, Smoke DZA and Trinidad James are featured artists, each adding their own unique flair to the tape and with K.R.I.T.’s production, even the worst verses sound outstanding.

In addition to almost single-handedly revitalizing the Southern rap genre, Big KRIT shows listeners the kind of rap that they deserve, rather than what most are exposed to on a daily basis. You can stream the entire mixtape King Remembered In Time at here.