On June 18th, J. Cole is set to release his sophomore album, Born Sinner. It is available now to stream on bornsinner.com.
Cole has repeatedly stressed in interviews that the underlying theme of this album is not church related. I beg to differ. While the subject matter is explicitly lascivious and vulgar, the overall concept is a fundamental aspect of the Christian experience.
In a musical genre dominated by elaborate tales ranging from excessive spending to sexual conquests it is rare to hear an artist deal with topics open and honestly. Cole's first spoken words on the album are, "It's way darker this time." Some content may seem dismal, but Jermaine has made himself completely transparent. He has laid all his cards on the table while still possessing the same lyrical prowess that has drawn so many people to him in the first place.
In all facets this is a public, very public, confession.
1. Villuminati - "Sometimes I brag like Hov." Cole kicks off the album with confessing his tendency to be a braggart. Cole has earned the right to put his humility aside to establish himself as a force to be reckoned with. But, nonetheless, lack of humility has led to many people's downfalls.
3. Land Of The Snakes - Here J. Cole manages to slide the theme of the album into the track. "Who more thorough than me?/ I paint a picture of my pain for the world to see." He describes his surroundings as being filled with untrustworthy/devious individuals. By the end of the track he confesses that he once displayed similar qualities.
5. Mo Money - This theme wouldn't be complete without the root of all evil; money. This track is more about what others do to obtain money than a personal confession but Cole does confess to the wicked ways he spends his money.
7. Runaway - Cole confesses his struggle to stay faithful in his relationship while handling the temptations that accompany becoming famous. "Acting out my childhood fantasies of wife and home/ but there's a whole lot of actresses I'd like to bone"
9. Rich N***** - On this track Jermaine confesses how he despises those who have more money than him because of living most of his life without having much. He also confesses to not wanting to be like his father. "But listen here/ I got a bigger fear/ of one day that I become you/ and I become lost and I become heartless." This line has a dual meaning speaking on his disdain for his father and the music industry for the selling of dreams and false hope.
12. Chaining Day - "Look at me, pathetic n****, this chain that I bought/ you mix greed, fame, and pain, this a heinous result." Any fan of J. Cole knows that he is far from flashy. Cole lets us know, "my last piece I swear/ my guilt heavy as this piece I wear." Cole confesses his inability to fight off the allure of buying expensive jewelry that comes with being in the hiphop industry.
"It's J. Cole/ set of horns and a halo." Cole's logo is a perfect metaphor for his personality, which shines through every track on this album. Cole uses this platform to let go of his demons. Are these demons a result of the music industry? The title, Born Sinner, would suggest that perhaps the music industry only served to amplify Cole's faults. The deep sounds of anguish coming from disappointment in both himself and the rap industry resonate through each verse.
1 John 1:9 states, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." The purpose of confession is reconciliation. Who does Cole wish to reconcile with? Is he attempting to reconcile with himself, with his family, with his girlfriend, or with his fans?
I cannot answer that question, but this album has reminded me that, as Christians, often a public confession of our sins is needed. James tells us to "confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed." (James 5:16a).
Like J. Cole, we were born into sin. And like J. Cole, we all deal with demons. The longer we try to supress those demons, the more they will control us. Often, the best way to heal ourselves and mend our broken relationships with God and with others begins with a honest public confession.