By then, the majority of Born Sinner‘s biggest collaborations had already been teased: “Power Trip” featuring Miguel, “Crooked Smile” featuring TLC, “Forbidden Fruit” featuring Kendrick Lamar. As fans will hear for themselves though, Born Sinner is largely collaboration-free because it allows room for J. Cole to discuss his biggest influences.
J. Cole samples the Notorious B.I.G., references Kanye West songs, and name-checks Tupac and Lisa ‘Left Eye’ Lopes. Introduction “Villuminati” boasts a chorus that goes, “Sometimes I brag like Hov” — that is, his Roc Nation boss Jay-Z — while “Let Nas Down” details how J. Cole idolized the titular rapper — how he used to decorate his bedroom walls with Nas lyrics, only to later hear how his biggest single (“Work Out,” maybe?) ended up disappointing the Queensbridge, N.Y., rap icon.
J. Cole occasionally bemoans label standards and even complains of a time that Jay-Z asked for a song that felt like a single. (Frank Ocean can sympathize, for sure.) However, Born Sinner focuses more on how fame and Billboard standards have tested J. Cole, but also reminded him that he must look to his rap idols more than ever. Hear Born Sinner at J. Cole’s official website.