Today was a big day in the hip hop world. Two of the leadings MC's in the game right now dropped albums: Born Sinner and Yeezus. Due to the leaks of both albums I was able to take the time to really listen to each one. I had my doubts about both artists. I loved Cole in his Friday Night Lights glory and I highly anticipated his debut album Cole World- The Sideline Story. I was left very disappointed and since then I have never been able to rock with him the same. With Kanye, I was able to hear the first four songs on Yeezus at the Governor's Ball. Hearing him do some of his early tracks and his new songs in the same performance, his sound is incredibly different now, and at first I rejected his new direction. However, after really listening, and all hip hop lovers know real hip hop is so complex that it requires multiple listening sessions and time to devour the rhymes and flow, I came to some conclusions.
Born Sinner is a solid body of work. Highlights of the album are the Biggie sample in his intro track "Villuminati," "Rich Ni**az," and his popular single "Power Trip." What impressed me the most was "Forbidden Fruit" which featured Kendrick on the chorus. Kendrick has an incredibly entrancing tone that partners the song perfectly. Cole's flow is cold on this track and offers his same lyrical superiority without having the pensive tone he utilizes frequently. Towards the end of the album is "Crooked Smile" which features the remaining TLC. The song is uplifting and discusses first his image and then women and the pressures and insecurities we face based on image. This song always makes me smile when I hear it, perhaps in a crooked smile sort of way :). Rumors of a track titled "Let Nas Down" turned out to be true. Cole is so honest on this track where he talks about how much he idolized Nas and meeting him was a dream come true. After the release of his single "Work Out," apparently Nas hated the track and that killed Cole inside. With each listen I enjoy Born Sinner more and more as hip hop should be, however, it is not an album I would play start to finish. I'll never understand how such a talented lyricist with the backing of the legendary Jay Z can not seem to produce a killer album. Friday Night Lights blew me away and I have yet to have the same reaction with J. Cole since.
As for Yeezus, Kanye completely stepped out of the box that hip hop created for him. A perfect follow up to MBDTF, Yeezus production is spectacular and provides a sound that is brand new. With only ten tracks, that's all you need. The album is shocking at first listen but the fourth and fifth listen are pure genius. The industrial sound that accompanies "Black Skinhead" and "New Slaves" is magic on good quality systems. The album only gets better in the second half, "Hold my Liquor" is dark and fascinating. "I'm In It" incorporates reggae vocals that are thrilling. "Blood on the Leaves" is by far the most powerful track featuring Nina Simone covering Billie Holiday's famous "Strange Fruit" which was originally a poem exposing the lynching of blacks in this country. "Bound 2" lyrically is the best track on the album and gives a glimpse of the "old Kanye" we like to refer to so much. Not quite fitting the overall sound of the rest of the album, nonetheless it concludes it and sounds so good.
Born Sinner is definitely worth copping and I am eager to hear your opinions. And if you haven't already heard Yeezus, get on it! With these two great albums already out and Pusha T, Rick Ross, Fabolous, Jay Z and so many more dropping albums this summer, it seems real hip hop is on the rise and I can't wait.