There are many intriguing things about J. Cole‘s forthcoming Born Sinner — Cole’s role as primary producer, the lack of guest MCs, the June 18 face-off with Kanye West — but perhaps the most intriguing bit was the announced collaboration with TLC‘s surviving members. And now Cole has unveiled the track featuring T-Boz and Chilli, called ”Crooked Smile.” The title (and artwork) serves as a literal manifestation of the song’s message that authenticity, not perfection, is beauty. In the opening verse, Cole raps, “They tell me I should fix my grill cuz I got money now…I keep my twisted grill just to show the kids it’s real.”
It’s an uplifting track, with a distinctly turn-of-the-millennium hip-hop vibe — not just because of TLC’s familiar presence. The bright pianos and ascendant keyboards bring to mind a slowed-down hybrid of “Still Not A Player” and “I Really Like It.” Also, this song joins Yeah Yeah Yeahs‘ “Sacrilege” in the “was not expecting that choir at the end” file.
Hear the new track below.