Jet Life Fails To Take Off: A Jet World Order Album Review
I wrote this for NYU news. We’ll see if it gets published or not.
In 2011, rap is defined by its respective crews. It’s either join a team or get lost. With Young Money, Roc Nation, G.O.O.D, Maybach Music Group, Shady 2.0 and even Taylor Gang, and Odd Future all feverishly releasing material...
Now that Born Sinner has been officially out for two weeks, and we’ve all had time to sit and stew with it, we thought we’d present two radically different takes on the album. Everyone at BB has been a fervent supporter of J. Cole throughout his career, but when it came time to discuss the album, we were at odds with each other. Read on hear our cases for and against Born Sinner.
I could start this off with what I actually think about the album, but for 95% of hip-hop fans, I’d be dismissed as a “hater,” because the truth is fucking scalding. So let me make this clear: I bought a deluxe copy of Born Sinner for $15. J. Cole is one of my favorite artists. This website is littered with J. Cole praise. I’ve met the guy on two separate occasions as a fan, and I look back on those memories with great pride. Noz made a good point last weekend about J. Cole’s mediocrity, but I still think the kid is a dope artist. It’s just that Born Sinner is a bad album.
Before I start tearing into it, I want to make some larger points about the album, because there is some good being done here. As far as his bars go, they’ve upgraded since Cole World. On paper, he’s a better writer of individual raps, and writer of whole songs. The overall front-to-back production is improved as well. “Villuminati” and “Power Trip” are great beats, and “Power Trip” might be one of Cole’s best songs—certainly the most carefully crafted and appealing. He still has a handful of corny bars, but “Just copped a Maroon 5, no Adam Levine” isn’t as painful to hear as “Cole heating up like that leftover lasagna.”
But enough powderpuffing this shit. The fact is, he titled an album “Born Sinner” when his lone vice only concerns the hoes. So much for being a sinner. He’s really just a bad boyfriend. Starting with “Land of the Snakes” and continuing throughout the album, J. Cole is repeatedly saying this: “I can’t stop fucking hoes, and I hate how the hoes try and manipulate me, but because I’m a young black man I can’t stop giving into them for the pussy, and I feel bad because I have a college sweetheart back at home who’s loyal and faithful to me—oh and by the way, I’ve got a hoe sucking me off right now, and I’m texting your girl.” *end album*
Early bird gets the worm. While North America was sleeping, Drake let four new songs go on his SoundCloud, and announced that his 3rd studio album, Nothing Was The Same, will drop on September 17th. Out of the four, two songs really stood out to me. First, “The Motion” is apparently off of Nothing Was The Same. It features vocals from Sampha, and is a nice atmospheric track. I can all ready see white-girls singing the hook to it all summer.
The second track, and the one I’m currently seizing over, is Drake’s remix of Migos‘ “Versace” AKA the hottest track south of the Mason-Dixon line. From now on, if you talk/text/tweet to me, I’m only responding with: “VERSACE, VERSACE, VERSACE, VERSACE, VERSACE, VERSACE, VERSACE, VERSACE, VERSACE, VERSACE, VERSACE, VERSACE…. VERSACE.”
Hit the jump for the other two tracks. One is a Drake feature over OVO collaborator PARTYNEXTDOOR’s “Over Here,” and the other is a Drake x J. Cole freestyle.
J. Cole and DJ Drama let loose this freestyle over Wu-Tang Clan’s “Itz Yours” instrumental. No word yet on a joint mixtape between the two, but Cole’s sophamore album Born Sinner, is set to release on January 28th.
Following a “trailer” that came out on Friday, J. Cole releases the first single off of his sophomore album entitled, “Miss America”. Cole’s upcoming album, Born Sinner is set to release on January 28th of next year. With a track like this setting the tone for the album, we can expect Cole’s signature sampling and high-end production on this new project.
Sandy’s bitchass kept us from posting the past couple days, but when I heard this last night I knew I had to post this track. “The Jig Is Up (Dump’n)” is an unreleased track that came from one of the Kendrick-Cole studio sessions, and didn’t make it on the album. Canei Finch, producer of “Westside, Right On Time” co-produced the song alongside Cole.
According to Nielson SoundScan, K-Dot’s debut major label release, “good kid, m.A.A.d city”, which released October 22nd, scanned 241,000 copies, making it the highest selling album by a “new artist” in 2012. Congrats to Kendrick Lamar for this strong release, and support if you haven’t already!
After previewing a verse off of this track in-concert, Cole decided to let loose his latest self-produced single, “I’m A Fool”. Besides this being the first new Cole track a month or so, one of the verses is said to be subliminal jab at Diggy Simmons. *Yawns* As anti-climatic as that may be, this track bumps, and definitely leaves you anticipating more new material. #ColeWorld
Peep the live performance of “I’m A Fool” alongside Kendrick Lamar below.
It’s Finally here. Preview videos for Big Sean’s latest mixtape, Detroit, have been circulating the web for the past couple weeks, but it is now here. With features like Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole, Mike Posner, Chip Tha RipperKing Chip, Lex Luger, Young Chop, Hit-Boy, and many more this tape is filled with ill lyricism AND production. Check it out below:
Last week, Complex declared “Tupac back” as the best hip-hop line of 2011. Uh, okay. What was really back in 2011 was hip-hop. The genre has been suffering in recent years (or since the 90s, depending on how old you are), because of an overall lack of quality. Entering 2011, Golden Era snobs were raising their noses in disgust, the streets were wondering where 50 and Jeezy had gone, and everyone else was weary. In 2011, however, it seems like every rapper that mattered or wanted to matter stepped up and created exceptional music.
The established guard of stars came out this year in full force. Lil Wayne nearly sold a mili first week with his first post-prison release, Tha Carter IV. Eminem, still riding his monumental Recovery wave, teamed up with his old buddy Royce Da 5’9″ to unleash a collaboration album full of hard, misogynistic bars. Kanye West and Jay-Z promised and delivered the most anticipated tangible product in years in Watch The Throne, although the Concords 11s might have trumped The Throne in that department. (I say “tangible” lightly, since their initial digital-only release prevented a highly-anticipated leak). Each star did their thing, and expanded their horizons. Lil Wayne proved that you don’t need to make good music to sell records. Eminem was able to to make a fun record with a friend without any pressure. Kanye West continued to sonically expand what’s considered hip-hop while getting Jay to rap over some dubstep along the way. Expect DJs and electronic music to continue to infiltrate hip-hop in 2012.
While the old guard held their own, a new generation of rappers cracked into the mainstream. These rappers have been hot names for years, but 2011 was the year that they were able to get their label situation in line with their vision. Wale was given a second chance by Rick Ross’ Maybach Music Group and Warner Bros. He fell short of his “classic” ambition, but he produced a #1 record with plenty of feel-good bangers, pop hits and introspective moments to satisfy himself and his label.
Big Sean, the former black sleep of G.O.O.D Music, was finally deemed ready by Kanye. He went ahead seized the spotlight and the iPods of every house party in America. With T.I. back in jail, Meek Mill had nowhere to turn until a certain red-bottomed boss scooped him up. After providing the most belligerent, loud, boastful record in 2011 with “Ima Boss,” he dropped Dreamchasers and one of the most vivd storytelling verses of the year on “Tony Story.”
Remember Tity Boi? Yeah, me neither. But do you know who 2 Chainz is? Yeah, that’s Tity Boi. 2 Chainz reinvented himself in 2011 with a new moniker and heightened work ethic. His “Spend It” is currently the hottest street record, and he’s the go-to feature for trap rappers everywhere.
Out of all the rappers to finally breakthrough this year, J. Cole has perhaps made the biggest impact. Handpicked by Jay-Z to one day take the crown, J. Cole has had the entire industry behind him and against him at the same time. Everyone wanted to see J. Cole succeed, but nobody could agree on how to roll out his music properly. After over a year of touring and delays, his debut album, Cole Word, finally received it’s September release date. What it didn’t have was a hit single to carry the album up the charts. “Work Out” had been a summer flop, and “Can’t Get Enough” wasn’t being pushed enough. Despite label forecasts of 50,000-60,000 albums sold, Cole World quadrupled what the industry thought it was capable of, selling an astounding 218,000 copies its first week.
What J. Cole was able to do has now opened doors for the likes of Kendrick Lamar and Big K.R.I.T. All three have distinct sounds that are all favorable to the underground—conventional wisdom would have them pegged as Indie acts with no mainstream appeal, and therefore no selling power. But if J. Cole was able to debut with a #1 album just off the strength of his music and fans, who’s to say Kendrick and K.R.I.T can’t do the same? J. Cole has made it possible to be yourself in an industry that’s always looking to pawn rappers off for another hit single, and still sell enough to please the Israeli overlords. Kendrick and K.R.I.T released highly acclaimed projects of their own, and can now continue to build their fan base and brand instead of worrying about needing a crossover single to sell records.
J. Cole wasn’t the only Indie warrior in 2011. Mac Miller had the first independently released #1 album in over 15 years with Blue Slide Park, selling 155,000 copies first week. Tyler, The Creator’s Goblin has sold over 150,000 copies on an Indie label. J. Cole, Mac Miller and Tyler’s contrarian approaches all proved that a strong brand and loyal fan base trumps any rushed effort with a catchy single leading the way. What they accomplished will significantly impact how artists and labels roll out their product in the future.
Long delayed albums stuck in label purgatory also saw the light in 2011. Lupe Fiasco had to sell his soul to Atlantic Records, but he was able to get Lasers released (it ended up being his best album commercially, even with it’s shortcomings). Common finally got his act together, put his acting aside, got in the studio with No I.D after over a decade of separation, and recreated Resurrection for modern ears with The Dreamer, The Believer. Young Jeezy, through all of his promotional hiccups, managed to get TM103 out to your hood and my suburb right before the new year.
Despite all of the incredible music that was released in 2011, much of it has been overshadowed by conflict. What’s hip-hop without the beef, right? Nobody is dieting out here. 2011 was the year of the subliminals. Jay-Z told Birdman “you got Baby money,” which sparked a war of words that ran throughout the year. Drake took jabs at Kanye and Jay-Z on “I’m On One” (“the throne is for the taking—watch me take it”) and on “Dreams Money Can Buy” (“my favorite rappers either lost it or they ain’t alive”). Pusha T and Common dedicated entire records to dissing Drake (apparently they’ve noticed Drake’s commercial power). Aubs was involved in just about ever subliminal diss record in 2011 some way or another. That’s not a coincidence for the “human croissant.”
Credit to those who shed the subliminals and went right for the jugular. Lil Kim used Nicki Minaj’s success to try and resurrect her career, sparking a very public war of words. Game tried to get people to remember his existence by going at everyone connected to hip-hop on “Uncle Otis”—everyone except the label bosses who kept delaying his album. It was Lil Wayne, however, who provided the nastiest line of 2011, going right at Jay-Z and his pregnant Queen Beyonce: “Talkin’ bout Baby money, I got your Baby money. Kidnap your bitch, keep that, how much you love your lady money?”.
There was even R&B beef in 2011, which is always funny. Robin Thicke had the Twitter beef of the year, and Chris Brown and Frank Ocean even got into it. It’s only a matter of time until someone gets killed over Twitter, and Chris Brown’s cousins seemed determine to waste Frank Ocean over a couple tweets:
R&B and hip-hop became very intertwined in 2011. Frank Ocean’s Odd Future collective successfully fucked up the minds of half of teenage America with their I-don’t-give-a-fuck, shock, punk-rap rager attitude. Ocean ended up as the go-to hook-smith on Watch The Throne and on Goblin. His R&B counterpart, The Weeknd, exploded out of Toronto with some serious co-signs from Drake. The Weeknd promised and actually released three brilliant mixtapes in 2011, outproducing half of the R&B industry. His presence was felt all over Drake’s acclaimed Take Care—whether it was adding vocals, songwriting or production, The Weeknd helped Drake push Take Care to a creative zenith (similar to what Kid Cudi did on Kanye’s 808s & Heartbreak)—the ultimate example of hip-hop and R&B tastefully co-existing.
To close 2011, The Throne embarked on a North American tour. Those lucky enough to attend were treated to one of the greatest concerts ever put together. It was the ultimate concert experience—with tickets starting at almost $100 in many cities, it was a tour steeped in over-the-top stunts, stages, songs (they performed that song about African Americans In Paris 168 times over 34 concerts) and wardrobes (Kanye’s leather kilt and Air Yeezy 2s commanded attention at every date). Jay-Z’s bombastic, bat-out-of-hell performance of “U Don’t Know” was the most exhilarating concert experience I’ve ever had:
Hip-hop is in a strange place right now. Comedians are rapping, rappers are singing, singers are rapping, and Pitchfork keeps giving Lil B exceptional reviews. There’s no clear direction for the culture and the genre, because hip-hop flexed it’s diversity in 2011. Never has hip-hop literally had something for everyone. Hip-hop no longer has a myopic attitude—it’s artists are throwing a molotov cocktail to the establishment and creating music to expand the culture, to let everyone in. It’s much cooler to lead the revolution than to inherit the crown. Watch the new year.
“Moving weight.” It’s a term heavily used in the verses of coke rappers like Pusha T, Rick Ross and Young Jeezy. When it comes to moving weight in the form of CDs however, these rappers, along with much of the hip-hop industry, fail. The entire music industry is in uncharted, dangerous waters right now, and hip-hop has suffered. Aside from the Kanye Wests’, Eminems’ and Lil’ Waynes’ of the world, rappers aren’t moving enough weight.
A lack of hip-hop sales means less rappers are getting a chance to see their product in stores. Labels have to carefully pick and choose which artists will get financial and promotional backing for their albums. This has created a system of trial-by-fire for artists. They only get a push for their project if one of their singles pop. Usually, the album release process goes like this: hot single, followed by another solid single, and then the album. Labels only want to put their scarce resources behind what’s (hopefully) guaranteed to sell. By in large, they use the success of singles to judge that.
With that being said: How in the hell did J. Cole’s debut album sell 217,000 copies its first week of sales? (It’s the highest selling debut of 2011). The album had been delayed a year and a half, and he had been the subject of extremely harsh criticism because bloggers hated his lack of promo and “singles for the fans.” On top of these perceived missteps, he had no hit single. “Work Out” flopped, and “Can’t Get Enough” barely had any time to breathe before the release. Lupe Fiasco and Wiz Khalifa each had #1 singles in 2011, and Cole outsold both of their albums.
Based on his lame duck singles and the underground feel of Cole World, his own label had projected sales of 50,000 units first week. They had only shipped out 100,000 copies for the entire first month. J. Cole outsold his labels first month sales forecast in one day, and ended up quadrupling the labels first week projection. They underestimated and under shipped Cole World—but rightly so, no? Traditional industry thinking puts Cole World in that 50,000 units range. Deeper investigation is needed to uncover how Cole World managed to sell 217,000 copies. Hit the jump to see the five elements of J. Cole that added up to a #1 album.