J. Cole has never been one to conform to expectations. Love him or hate him, you can’t deny that Cole does his best to present an honest perspective of whatever’s on his mind. Here, he teams with the remaining members of TLC on “Crooked Smile.” It’s one of the more gospel-driven piano cuts off Born Sinner, a good song in its own right.
But Cole does something new with the video. The song itself fades into the background and pulses back to the surface surfaces again as the respective stories of a drug dealer and a DEA agent slowly circle each other before ending in a tragedy you won’t see coming. The ambient noise of the video—lawnmowers, sparklers, and breakfast—brings the everydayness of the struggle to the fore as the song recedes into the back. The J. Cole fan base is gonna love this one—and he might have pricked up the ears of a couple cinephiles too.