J. Cole – Born Sinner | Album Tracklist x Track by Track Preview

As the tracklist has finally been revealed, I finally get to share this information.

A few weeks ago, J. Cole hit the UK for a few interviews and more importantly, play his sophomore solo album Born Sinner to a select group of press, DJs, friends and influencers and I was lucky enough to have been invited to the listening session.

Sitting in the Dean Street studios in London’s center, Jermaine sat down, asked everybody in the room their names and thanked them individually for coming to listen to the LP before pulled out his iPhone to play us almost the entire album.
The entire album was produced by Cole (minus a couple of interludes) and he began working on the LP a week after the release of his debut LP Cole World: A Sideline Story as he felt unfulfilled in a sense by the debut release, despite it topping the Billboard charts and selling a lot more than his label predicted.

Born Sinner is split into two sections “Horns” and “Halo” or “Dark” and “Light” and J. Cole describes the LP as his “Escape from depression into happiness” Before rolling out the tracks.
Disclaimer: This is NOT a review and contains spoilers, just a few observations based on one listen (well I listened to “Let Nas Down” twice but that’s because I had to demand a rewind. Ha.)

1. “Villuminati” (The Intro Track)…
“Sometimes I brag like Hov…”
Beginning with a sample that comparable to an old cotton field chant before opening into a bass heavy trunk rattler of a track that samples The Notorious B.I.G‘s “Born sinner, the opposite of a winner” line from “Juicy”, leading into a five minute long verse highlighting the contradictions in humanity and society.
He also confronts illuminati theories and utters lines like “Please give me back my soul” in relation to what seemingly needs to be done in the industry to get ahead. The track has a myriad of transitions and Cole lets the beat breath at the end following a female voice hauntingly singing “I ain’t never letting go, I ain’t never letting you go again”.
With controversial lines like “It took a black president to tell the Japanese sorry” Cole isn’t afraid to ruffle feathers.

2. Kerney Sermon (Skit)

3. “LAnd Of The Snakes”
Following the skit which sounds like an infomercial from a money hungry church pastor, Jermaine unveiled the second track on the LP which was recorded in L.A as a result of Cole deciding he wanted to live in the City Of Angels, so he moved into a three bedroom house with about 12 of his people (keeping it classy but bringing the hood along too), but despite the upside of living in ‘Hollywood’, there was a dark side to it which inspired this cautionary tale (which I think samples “Da Art Of Storytelling (Part 1)” by Outkast) about the trappings, dangers and distractions of the City Of Angels (hence the capitalised L and A in the title) .

4. “Power Trip”

5. “Mo Money” (interlude)
A short verse which sees Cole breaking down the love, hunger and trappings of wealth and the pursuit of riches, utilising the word money in repetition during the verses to punctuate the message of the track.

6. “Trouble”
“The theme song of the “Horns” section of Born Sinner.” – J. Cole

7. “Run Away”
“Could I runaway from 50 mil like Dave Chappelle”
This track was described by J. Cole as one of his favourites on the album as he tackles subjects stemming from race (racism, issues with races mixing, slavery etc), poverty and various other issues over one of the most musical backdrops on the LP.

8. “She Know” (f/ Amber Coffman)
This one is set to be the third single from the LP and features The Dirty Projectors singer Amber Coffman. An uptempo cut that could possibly get some serious spins on radio and in the club and deals with the temptation of the women he encounters that couldn’t care less if he was in a relationship or not and the trappings of groupies.
The track like many others has an extended instrumental outro showcasing Cole’s growth as a producer.

9. “Rich N***az”
J. Cole didn’t play this one during the session.

10. Where’s Jermaine (Skit)

11. “Forbidden Fruit” (f/ Kendrick Lamar)
This one is one of my favourite tracks on the album and kind of plays on the Adam and Eve story from the book of Genesis in the Bible.
Jermaine wasn’t lying when he said there were no rap verses on the LP as Kendrick Lamar doesn’t lay down a 16 bar, but the track cleverly weaves between Cole’s vocals and Kendrick’s before letting Lamar take on the chorus duties.
This one must have been recorded quite recently as there is a line that goes “Imma drop the album same day as Kanye” in reference to moving his album release date to the same day as Kanye West’s Yeezus LP.

12. “Chaining Day”
Over an almost royal and more positive soundbed than we have heard so far on the album, J. Cole tackles the thirst for riches and wealth which in some, including himself manifest in the purchase of jewellery which in some cases the pieces so-called rich black folk would nearly kill to purchase is the “same shit a rich white man would laugh at”.

13. Ain’t That Some Sh*t (Interlude)

14. “Crooked Smile” (f/ TLC)
The second single from the album. Speaking on the track, Jermaine said the song was about “not only disussing our imperfections, but embracing them.
Taking away the power from others that would try to use them to hurt us” and the song is the theme song of the lighter ‘Halo’ section of the Born Sinner LP.

15. “Let Nas Down”
“Pac was like Jesus, Nas wrote the bible”
One of the most important tracks on the album. There is a long intro story to go with this, which Jermaine broke down in detail, but in a nutshell following the release of the “Work Out”, which despite dominating radio and going double platinum received the worst feedback Cole had ever faced in his career. Well one day J. Cole received a call from one of his idols and production mentor, No I.D. who informed him that he had a conversation with Nas (who is Cole’s favourite rapper) and Nasir wasn’t happy about the single saying “Why did he do that? Cole is the one. He didn’t need to make that record, he shouldn’t have done it”. That statement cut like a knife with cole, but it gave him the fuel to write the track and this one definitly is the highlight of the LP.

16. Born Sinner (Feat. Fauntleroy)
We didn’t get to hear this one. But hey we already gave you too much.


17. Miss America
18. New York Times (Feat. 50 Cent & Bas)
19. Is She Gon Pop
20. N***az Know

21. Sparks Will Fly (Feat. Jhene Aiko)

Born Sinner will be released on June 18th and the deluxe version will have the third installment in his Truly Yours series. Pre-Order it here