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It is rare to encounter an artist who is closely tied to Jay-Z, endorsed by Nas and revered as a lyricists who is as humble as Jermaine Lamarr Cole. At 28-years-old, Cole is wiser than his counterparts, more in tune with his feelings and more passionate about creating quality music than your typical rap star these days. Aside from the Drakes and Miguels, music is flooded with mediocre talent, but not J. Cole. No, he is onto something.

MUST READ: J. Cole’s “Born Sinner” Decoded

The SVA Theater in NYC became the hottest venue in the city last night when J. Cole commanded the venue for his private album listening party. Fans and press adorned the streets of Manhattan, rolling in droves to the Beats by Dre sponsored soiree.

We were provided headphones, given a snack and welcomed into the main theater by LISNR–the app that would be streaming the album— staff. After toying with the app and wifi (it’s better in theory– everyone streaming the album live at once would probably be more effective in smaller groups), and waiting on Cole for an hour and a half, the man of the hour took to the mic to introduce the project that would be in control of our ears for the next 60+ minutes of our lives.

Cognac in one hand, microphone in other, J. Cole desired to explain only one song on his album–“Let Nas Down.” judging by its title, I can tell it is “Born Sinners” most vulnerable track. He reminisced about the road to his first album, how Jay-Z demanded nothing but excellence. It took a total of three attempts at a single for Hov to finally give the green light. But even Jay-Z can’t make people like your music. Cole joked about how his first single “Workout” tanked. Specifically, how Queensbridge rapper Nas had even questioned why he’d even release something so beneath his craft. “In his feelings” he wondered how Nas could ever say anything like that. But, Cole synthesized his failure into determination. Thus, resulting in “Let Nas Down.” He won’t.

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What I love most about “Born Sinner” is how stripped down each track is. Every track is a different experience but harmonious to the overall sound of the album. He is a storyteller and created 16 tracks of short novels. Prior to listening to the album stream, I thought “Power Trip” featuring Miguel, would be my favorite “Born Sinner” tune but, “Runaway” proved to be an outer body experience from the perspective of a man. Honest and almost shameful, it is my favorite.

Cole isn’t your typical artist. He is a rappers’ rapper–too real for mainstream and not willing to conform enough to garner an audience like Nicki Minaj’s. Still, he is so brave, that he places his heart and soul into his music and it makes me think, music/ Hip-Hop isn’t dead!

Purchase “Born Sinner” June 18.

For a track by track review, click here.

MUST READ: PRESS PLAY: J.Cole Releases New Song Featuring TLC, “Crooked Smile”

MUST READ: MUSIC ROUNDUP: J.Cole’s ‘Power Trip’ Leads To The Death Of Miguel

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