Cole World: Sideline Story Vs. Born Sinner: A Track-By-Track Review
By: David Lazo-Pineda
Hello everybody and welcome to my first ever track-by-track review! With the release of J. Cole’s highly anticipated third album coming home for the holidays, (that was a J. Cole song reference from The Warm Up) I thought it would be interesting to compare his previous two albums to see which one is better.
It’s been long debated on which is better, Jermaine’s debut project Cole World: Sideline Story or his sophomore effort Born Sinner. Now, the EinsteinOfRap will breakdown (another reference) both albums track-by-track, in hopes to find an answer.
At the end of this post, you the reader can also have the opportunity to join in the discussion, by voting on which album is better in your honest opinion. So without further ado, let’s get to it!
1. Intro Vs. Villuminati
I like that Cole briefly rapped over some piano keys on the Intro to Cole World: Sideline Story however, the opening track on Born Sinner is “way deeper this time” as Jermaine puts it. Villuminati not only is longer than Intro, but it speaks more volume when it comes to making a strong introduction to an album. Also, Cole samples The Notorious B.I.G. from the song Juicy where Biggie raps, “Born sinner, the opposite of a winner.” This is fitting to Cole’s album concept because well, the title of his sophomore album is Born Sinner. Therefore, this is why I picked Villuminati over Intro.
2. Dollar and a Dream III Vs. Kerney Sermon (Skit)
This is another track vs. skit contest which again, goes to the song that is longer which is Dollar and a Dream III from C.W.S.S. Personally, I felt that this concept of having nothing to something is inspiring and Cole has succeeded when it comes to this trilogy of rap songs. While the Kerney Sermon skit is delightful in a sense that we catch a glimpse of the following track on Born Sinner, titled LAnd of the Snakes, it wasn’t enough to go head-to-head with the Dollar and a Dream concept. C.W.S.S easily gets the point here.
Winner: Dollar and a Dream III!
3. Can’t Get Enough ft.Trey Songz Vs. LAnd of the Snakes
This was one of the more challenging tracks to decide on which is better but it came down to a few things. For one, Can’t Get Enough is a song that was one of the lead singles for the debut album which was also a hit on the radio. Meanwhile, LAnd of the Snakes wasn’t as commercially successful. However, LAnd of the Snakes does sample OutKast’s Da Art of Storytellin’ Pt. 1, but at the same time, I couldn’t get enough of J. Cole and Trigga Man’s collaboration on this track, so I had to give it to C.W.S.S on this one.
Winner: Can’t Get Enough!
4. Lights Please Vs. Power Trip ft.Miguel
This was a tough one. If you’re a true fan of J. Cole, you know that Lights Please was first introduced to the world on Cole’s second mixtape titled The Warm Up which became a hit in the underground world of Hip-Hop. Fans like myself appreciated the fact that he put this particular song on the album, but when I listened to Power Trip which is arguably one of J. Cole’s best songs ever, I knew this song was special. This song was so special, I even wrote my own verses to it which you can read here, so B.S. gets the point hands down.
Winner: Power Trip!
5. Interlude Vs. Mo Money (Interlude)
This is a Interlude vs. Interlude battle and I picked the C.W.S.S Interlude because it was more fascinating to me to understand the story of how J. Cole got signed to Roc Nation which was the same night cops pulled him over but he didn’t care, because he already knew he was going to be signed to Jay Z! What a relief for him right? Although Cole drops some knowledge for us on Mo Money, I had to slide closer to Interlude this time around just because I enjoyed the story so much.
6. Sideline Story Vs. Trouble
“I put my heart and soul in this game I’m feeling drained,” are the words you first hear when you listen to the calm and relaxing tune to Sideline Story. As Cole reflects on his life at that moment, we get to see how he accepts adversity and conquers through his pain. Meanwhile on Trouble, we see a more outraged Cole, where he raps as if he’s crying for help because of his drunken stupors. While both songs contain great content, I sided with Sideline Story because of how much more chill it is compared to Trouble and it’s catchy chants.
Winner: Sideline Story!
7. Mr. Nice Watch ft.Jay Z Vs. Runaway
This one was kinda easy because when you have Jay Z on your debut album, you know you have a great song. Mr. Nice Watch is just that. The whole theme is obviously about time and watches but it was Jay Z’s clever verse that really stole the show here, not to mention the awesome guitar riffs we hear after the hook fades. On Runaway however, we get some comedy from good ol’ Mike Epps and an uncredited Big Sean “woah” near the end of each hook. Cole also sings his soul with “I’m holding on desperately. Runaway, runaway, runaway.” Nevertheless, Mr. Nice Watch takes the cake here because Roc Nation that’s why.
Winner: Mr. Nice Watch!
8. Cole World Vs. She Knows ft.Amber Coffman
Probably the hardest one I had to choose between. See I love rapping along to Cole World, the part where he goes “Got a hundred fifty bitches in the club starring at me. How I feel? Very happy hey!” It’s that braggadocious rap that Hip-Hop heads like myself love to listen to but at the same time, I caught myself loving another song. She Knows has every element that makes a song perfect. With a guess feature by Amber Coffman; a name not familiar to Hip-Hop fanatics and I’m sure it got heads scratching when buyers read the title. However, the song was incredible and it can apply to any situation as well. For instance, I caught myself in a scenario where a girl I knew, knew something I knew, so I just had to rap along and say “She knows, hey!” Despite that pause near the end of this song where it suddenly goes quiet then your ears get surprised by the loud vocals of Ms. Coffman, she makes the song even more special with her wise lyrics with an interesting tone. That’s why She Knows gets the point.
Winner: She Knows!
9. In The Morning ft.Drake Vs. Rich Niggaz
I know what everybody reading this post is thinking. And if you don’t let me explain like Kevin Hart. I don’t like today’s Drake, I mean I believe he’s too sensitive for my liking. I’m afraid if I listen to Takecare or Nothing Was The Same, I might cry over an ex I never had. But I will say this; Drake had a lot of great songs in the past. Successful ft.Trey Songz and Lil’ Wayne, Light Up ft.Jay Z, Forever ft.Kanye West, Lil’ Wayne & Eminem are just a slew of songs Drake has created that are great in my opinion but his new material has gone a different route which does not suffice my ears. Needless to say, when he collaborated with Cole on this song which apparently all the ladies love, I enjoyed it surprisingly. Despite my view on the Drake of today compared to Drake from the past, I honestly believe we need more Cole and Drake songs because they are two artists who complement each other well in the world of Hip-Hop. This is why I favoured In The Morning over Rich Niggaz because Rich Niggaz seems like a sequel to Mo Money which is cool, but not enough to beat the soulful combination of one Jermaine Cole and one Aubrey Graham.
Winner: In The Morning!
10. Lost Ones Vs. Where’s Jermaine? (Skit)
While the Where’s Jermaine skit is an effective prelude to Forbidden Fruit ft.Kendrick Lamar, Lost Ones is a classic and everyone should recognize this. Lost Ones connected to me even though I’ve never been in a situation where I got my girlfriend pregnant but the story telling on this song is enough to make you believe you are going through what Cole’s going through and that says a lot! Lost Ones is easily a record that can speak to a generation where sex is out in the open and teen pregnancy is an occurrence so this would be something that relates to this generation and that’s why Lost Ones wins.
Winner: Lost Ones!
11. Nobody’s Perfect ft.Missy Elliott Vs. Forbidden Fruit ft.Kendrick Lamar
I really loved the fact that Cole got the Hip-Hop veteran Missy Elliott to sing on the the track Nobody’s Perfect. I thought the collaboration here was great, the lyrics were top notch but my first reaction when I listened to Forbidden Fruit was memorable above all. I remember covering my face with my hands because I couldn’t believe how ballsy Cole was by sampling one of the greatest Hip-Hop groups of all time, A Tribe Called Quest’s song Electric Relaxation. The song had a theme and stood by it and even though Kendrick Lamar didn’t spit a verse on this one, he still managed to shine bright like the Compton kid that he is. Forbidden Fruit wins here because “You know dat. Beetch. Beetch. Beetch!”
Winner: Forbidden Fruit!
12. Never Told Vs. Chaining Day
I like Never Told a lot because of the whole “don’t snitch” lesson that is introduced here, but I related more to Chaining Day because of the reminder that chains don’t make the man, man makes the chain. Plus, the instruments used on Chaining Day and the slow mo voice of Cole near the end is intriguing, so I gotta go with Chaining Day on this one. Also notice that on Cole World: Sideline Story, Cole rapped about watches on Mr. Nice Watch then he rapped about chains on Chaining Day. Just something to ponder about!
Winner: Chaining Day!
13. Rise and Shine Vs. Ain’t That Some Shit (Interlude)
Once again we get to hear some words from the great Jay Z during the beginning of Rise and Shine. It’s only fitting throughout the album that Cole was telling the story of how he got signed which was concluded with the following from Hova: “I’mma find him, I’mma sign him. I don’t want no problems *chuckles*” In addition, Rise and Shine’s hook is fascinating because Cole vents how if he dies, he wants God to take his soul which means he wants to go to heaven naturally. Although Ain’t That Some Shit was fun and more of a rapid-rap type of song, it didn’t compare close to Rise and Shine’s holy lyrics. Cole shined on this track.
Winner: Rise and Shine!
14. God’s Gift Vs. Crooked Smile ft.TLC
God’s Gift hits your eardrums harder than a left hook from Mike Tyson. The song is simply dope, soulful and raw all wrapped in one big… Gift. However, Crooked Smile features TLC; a popular R&B/Hip-Hop Grammy award winning group in the late 90’s so when Cole got them back together to sing the hook for this record, it had potential to be a hit, which it did despite not having Lisa “Left Eye” on the song (R.I.P.) Crooked Smile is the kind of song that expresses how imperfection is okay and even though Cole has crooked teeth, he doesn’t feel the need to fix them or as Cole puts it, “They tell me I should fix my grill because I got money now.” In addition, the theme of the record empowers young females to wake up and be okay with what “God already put his paint brush on” as in, being confident with who you are and accepting your flaws. I believe Crooked Smile has a strong message just like Lost Ones, can’t you see J. Cole’s just too damn good people?! Crooked Smile had me smiling, point for Born Sinner.
Winner: Crooked Smile!
15. Breakdown Vs. Let Nas Down
Let Nas Down is a song that is so important to Hip-Hop and possibly to Cole as well. The song reveals the story on how Cole’s song Work Out became a radio hit but when rap legend Nas heard it, he didn’t like it at all or as Nas puts it “Yo you da one, why you make that shit?” Cole found this out through Hip-Hop producer No I.D. who’s worked with Jay Z, Kanye West and Nas on several occasions and also produced Never Told. Cole couldn’t believe he let Nas down so he made this song to express his apology towards him. It should be noted because I think people forgot this happened, but Nas replied to this song with a remix called Made Nas Proud and you guys can listen to the extended remix which includes both Let Nas Down by J. Cole followed by Made Nas Proud by Nas obviously. If you’re really interested, take a listen here:
On the contrary, Breakdown is the kind of song that I related to on so many levels. For one, it’s evident that Jermaine and his mother have a close relationship and it shows in this song. Cole raps about how he broke down when he seen what his mother was doing; drugs, crack in a pipe more specifically. There’s also this hatred in Cole’s tone towards his father because he’s the reason Cole’s mother did what she did, which resulted in Cole having an emotional break down. This related to me personally because if you read my blog posts in the past, you know I too have a close relationship with my mother but it’s not the same with my father. Nevertheless, it’s hard not to connect to this song and therefore, it gets my vote.
16. Work Out Vs. Born Sinner ft.Fauntleroy
I absolutely adore the last song on Cole World: Sideline Story called Work Out. I thought it was brave and ridiculously clever for Cole to sample Kanye West’s The New Workout Plan on his debut album where the original song is also coincidentally from Kanye’s debut album The College Dropout. J. Cole took Kanye’s concept on the act of physically working out to a relatable stand point where he asks a girl that he had a thing with if it will work out. Yeah, pretty wise I know. This is also the song that as previously mentioned, sparked controversy with Nasir Jones. But it is what it is so we must move on!
Born Sinner ends with the self-titled track featuring vocals from James Fauntleroy who if you didn’t know, is part of the Hip-Hop group Cocaine 80’s who have worked with several artists around the world.
“Spinning in circles, live my life without rehearsal, if I die today my nigga was it business? Was it personal?” Is the opening question Cole asks on this track which lyrically speaking is on point. Because if one is spinning in circles, that is a routine lifestyle but Cole contradicts himself by saying he doesn’t live his life without rehearsal. Just something to digest and we haven’t even gotten past the first bar! God damn, Cole is just sick with it guys. This was the perfect way to end the album and if you have it on repeat, it literally transitions beautifully from Born Sinner to Villuminati because of the whole “I’m a born sinner but I’ll die better than that; swear” so you can relive the awesome experience that is, Born Sinner which is why the self-titled track wins my vote in the final battle of Cole World: Sideline Story vs. Born Sinner.
Winner: Born Sinner!
Also, though there is a bonus disc included with Born Sinner, it was not used in this discussion because Truly Yours III is a different project compared to Cole’s albums.
Therefore, with a 9 out of 16 over a close 7 out of 16, my overall album pick based on the tallied up score is…
COLE WORLD: SIDELINE STORY!
There you have it folks, the EinsteinOfRap has concluded that Cole World: Sideline Story is the better J. Cole album out of the two. Don’t forget to purchase a hard copy of 2014 Forest Hills Drive or download it online.
Agree or disagree with my results? Now’s your chance to vote on which album you think is better!
Until next time,
Stay Zen and Prosper