Happy Father’s Day to J. Cole. Despite his mysterious persona and secret recording of music for the past few years, I want to take us back a few years ago when J. Cole was arguably approaching his prime. Four years ago on this date, J. Cole released his sophomore album Born Sinner via Roc Nation Records. Take Care to Drake is Born Sinner to J. Cole; a collection of greatest hits. We all know the story of J. Cole, even if we don’t know the music attached to it. His debut album Sideline Story didn’t disappoint but the evolution from his first album to his next was everything more than remarkable. These are the most significant bars from each song that undeniably raised him to the top. (No interludes or deluxe songs)
Pac had a nigga saying fuck Jigga, fuck Biggie/ I was only like eleven so forgive me/ A decade later I’d be all up in the city/ Tryna get Hov to fuck with me
I wrote about this song years ago because it was one of the hottest intros I have ever heard. Bar after bar, J. Cole starts this one off reflecting upon the influence that rap music has on you as a younger child when you don’t quite understand everything. When your favorite rapper feels some type of way, you feel that way too until you gain some age and can finally see every perspective.
“LAnd of the Snakes”:
Not realizing when I hit she never forgets/ So every time I ignore the telephone call/ Saying I’ll hit her back, knowing I’m never gon’ call; she was hurting/ Now she’s staring dead in my face, she was smirking/ Like, “Yeah I remember and nah, you ain’t worth shit nigga”
These lines should go in the chronicles of being a college fuck boy. J. Cole wisely reflects upon the scenario of finessing a girl into having sex with him. Although she was actually invested in him as a person, it was just lust from his perspective. Later down the line he may have realized that she was actually pretty dope but now, he ruined it.
Now typically I kick game, like East Bay/ But you got a nigga freeze-framed yelling “Please play!”/ For Pete’s sake, homie, pull it together!/ Just fuck her one time and be through with forever’’
I remember scrolling through the East Bay catalogs as a kid. If you played sports heavy, you definitely had these catalogs sent to your house. But these bars symbolize the one thing we try to fight more than struggle; catching feelings. This is the point in your psyche where she’s got you, you and your friends know it, but you can’t find a way to get over it.
And I’m going back to school/ Only for the hoes and a class or two/ Young bad bitch made the pastor drool/ Everybody sweat her like Catholic school
College is only four years but the mental growth you go through can represent about 10. Being one of the few legendary rappers that actually got a degree, J. Cole raps about going back to school for the flourishing social life and fulfillment of his degree. When he said “Everybody sweat her like Catholic school”, I had to pause the song.
Old perverted white man who told me, “Jermaine, it’s all pink on the inside, fuck what color they face is”/ Wise words from an indecent man/ Made me reflect on the times when we was three-fifths of them
I’m still trying to find an artist that is as witty as J. Cole. These bars made the list because of the rawness they portrayed. J. Cole takes a deeper look into the reality of our country, and instead of speaking from the 1st dimension, he speaks from the 3rd, taking us back to the slave days. It’s crazy how black men and women are out here making millions now when back in the day, they weren’t even considered full people.
This is Martin Luther King in the club, getting dubs/ With a bad bitch in his ear sayin’ that she down for whatever/ In the back of his mind is Coretta
When your black, successful, and good looking, the girls will flock to you like mosquitos to sweaty skin on a summer day in Atlanta. No matter faithful depiction everyone may have about you, the temptation will take over in one way or the other. You may think about that lovely wife you have back at home, but as I learned in high school, you can only say no for so long.
Here’s a song you can sing along with/ When you down on some let you know you ain’t alone shit/ When your momma ain’t at home cause she got a second job/ Delivering pizzas, you think she out here getting robbed
This took me there personally because kids can truly relate to being raised by a single mother. Growing up in the struggle causes the mental thought processes of feeling alone. People find different ways to cope such as sports, sex, or crime, but Cole offers a prescription through the music. While you’re up at night and can’t sleep, the mind can’t help but to wonder if your mom is actually safe. The thought of her never coming home at night will keep you wide awake for hour after hour.
Ayo, I walk through the valley of the shadow of death/ Where niggas hold tech’s like they mad at the ref/ That’s why I keep a cross on my chest, either that or a vest/ Do you believe that Eve had Adam in check?
The valley of the shadow of death refers to opposites of darkness and death that a human must attempt to successfully walk through for survival. These bars refer to the valley being located in the hood where everyone is strapped up in case they need to actually pop something off. Either God or a literal bullet proof vest can save you. Oh, and do y’all think Eve had Adam whipped?
Money short so this jewelry is like a weave/ Meant to deceive and hear niggas say I see you/ Now bitches wanna fuck you, and niggas wanna be you/ And police wanna stop you, frisk you wonder what he do/ If a hater snatch your chain, I bet it still won’t free you
I prefer my woman all natural but once I thought about the psychology behind weave, I was way more willing to accept it. Cole also speaks upon the reality of when a cop sees a colored man with things that exemplify richness, he feels like something is wrong as if the man stole or cheated for what he has acquired. Not even money can free you from the deep depths of restriction that the world implies.
“Crooked Smile” ft. TLC:
I keep my twisted grill, just to show the kids it’s real/ We ain’t picture perfect, but we worth the picture still/ I got smart, I got rich, and I got bitches still/ And they all look like my eyebrows; thick as hell
I think he got us all when he said, “We ain’t picture perfect but we worth the picture still”. This is one of the most impressive singles I have heard an artist drop and boy will it build up one’s self esteem, man or woman. No matter how you look or how you act, there will always be someone who wants you.
“Let Nas Down”:
They don’t know, they just study the charts/ Me, I studied the shows, the fans, study they hearts/ I had a feelin’ I was killin’, and this music we were spillin’ out/ Would change lives forever, fuck the label, put it out
Many artists don’t feel the need to sign with a label because they just don’t understand. Labels really do study the charts. And in most situations, the higher ups are older and need a second opinion to conclude how the industry is really moving as of modern day. Cole speaks about his mental contemplation of releasing music for the label and the sales, and releasing music for the heart and the people. As we can tell, he’s done it for the heart and the people 99% of the time.
Back when we ran the streets who would think we grow to be murderers/ Teachers treated niggas as if they totally worthless and violent, and hopeless/ I saw but never noticed that a college point is right to “Be all that you can be” posters
Depending on the school system, teachers will literally have no faith in their students. Before you grow old enough to decide what you want to be, there are people out in the world who already decided that for you. In fact, teachers will try to persuade you to attend the army or a vocational school because not only do they think you won’t make it to college, they also think you won’t make it through if you do.
I had to stop myself from writing a full review because this would have went from an article, to a full scholastic essay. Writing this has made me realize why Born Sinner still lives on to be one of my favorite albums of all time. Stream Born Sinner via Apple Music now!
By K. High