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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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New, never-before-heard Jackson 5 track “That’s How Love Is” can be heard at www.jackson5.com

New, never-before-heard Jackson 5 track “That’s How Love Is” can be heard at www.jackson5.com !

There had never been an act like the Jackson 5 before and there will never be another one like it again. Now, on the 40th anniversary of the group’s landmark Motown debut – their smash hit “I Want You Back” b/w “Who’s Lovin’ You” was issued Oct. 7, 1969 – the Jackson 5 is heard like never before.

‘I Want You Back! Unreleased Masters’ (Motown/UMe), issued Nov. 10, 2009, brings to the public for the first time 12 unreleased recordings that include unique alternate versions of well-known hits as well as near classics and should-have-been-hits by one of the most popular groups of all time.

Preceding the release is the eSingle, “That’s How Love Is”, releasing exclusively on iTunes on October 6, the eve of the 40th anniversary. It’s produced by The Corporation™ and mixed exclusively for this release by original Motown engineer Russ Terrana. “That’s How Love Is”, can be heard on www.jackson5.com.

‘I Want You Back! Unreleased Masters’ also features Stevie Wonder’s “Buttercup”, a highly anticipated collaboration announced in 1974 but never released. There are two different studio performances of hits – one, a medley of “I Want You Back/ABC/The Love You Save”, the other an alternate version of “Never Can Say Goodbye” – recorded for TV appearances with Michael’s lead laid down for “safety” (he would sing live on the shows) but never heard until now. Other hit alternates: an extended alternate version of the No. 1 hit “Dancing Machine” and the original vocal version of “ABC.”

We get to hear, too, amazing unreleased tracks written and produced by the J5’s regular producers: The Corporation™ (“I Want You Back”, “ABC”, et al), with two “new” songs, the afore-mentioned, cute and lively “That’s How Love Is” and “Love Comes In Different Flavors”; and Hal Davis (“I’ll Be There” and many more), represented by the beautiful “Lucky Day”, with one of MJ’s loveliest vocals.

The J5 recorded prolifically throughout their Motown tenure, especially their first year under the tutelage of Bobby Taylor, who first brought them to Motown and produced two-thirds of their debut album. On this collection we’ll hear two soulful, nearly forgotten tracks: “Man’s Temptation”, a ballad written by Curtis Mayfield – originally performed by Gene Chandler and later covered by Isaac Hayes – featuring Jackie, Jermaine, and Michael, whose passionate vocals make the track this new album’s “Who’s Loving You”; and the funky “Listen I’ll Tell You How”, a Taylor original.

That’s not all. Willie Hutch, co-writer of “I’ll Be There”, delivered “Love Call”, a fast-paced smash that was somehow overlooked back in ’71. Johnny Bristol, best known for his work with Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell, Jr. Walker and the Supremes, co-wrote and produced “I’ll Try You’ll Try (Maybe We’ll All Get By)”, a super funky, socially conscious jam.

‘I Want You Back! Unreleased Masters’, at 12 tracks, mirrors an original Motown album lineup. On this brand new album not only is the music previously unheard, most of the photos in the package are previously unseen. Another bonus for longtime J5 fans: In addition to “That’s How Love Is”, Russ Terrana mixed two more tracks for this collection.

“The Motown vault is a vast treasure trove, and careful research begun in anticipation of the Jackson 5’s 40th anniversary revealed they had recorded dozens of fantastic songs that simply could not have all been released at the time,” says Bruce Resnikoff, President/CEO, Universal Music Enterprises. “We are amazed by the quality, and we know the many Michael Jackson fans all over the world will be too. We’re thrilled to have the opportunity to bring these exciting recordings to the public in such a special package.”

‘I Want You Back! Unreleased Masters’ is the J5 rediscovered. Now fans can rediscover the brothers who 40 years ago took the musical world by storm – Jackie, Jermaine, Tito, Marlon and Michael.

The celebration of Motown 50 continues around the globe with events, special programming, exhibits, etc. An irresistible force of social and cultural change, Berry Gordy’s legendary Motown Records made its mark not just on the music industry but society at large, with a sound that has become one of the most significant musical accomplishments and stunning success stories of the 20th century. No other record company in history has exerted such an enormous influence on both the style and substance of popular music and culture. That influence is still being felt today, from pop to hip-hop, as Motown celebrates the 50th anniversary of the company’s founding. Today, Motown is part of the Universal Music Group, with its classic recorded music catalog managed by Universal Music Enterprises (UMe).

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**The single “That’s How Love Is” is available now exclusively at iTunes. This is the only track available until the album release. Download your own copy now!