23. J.Cole - Born Sinner
Release date: June 18 Highlights: "Forbidden Fruit," "Let Nas Down," "Trouble"
While Kanye West declares himself a god, one of the highlights on J. Cole's new album—released on the same day as Yeezus—is the song "I Let Nas Down," in which Cole explains how it felt to disappoint an idol. While Danny Brown riles audiences with charisma and Kendrick rules with technical ability, J. Cole has gotten back to what he's best at: something in the middle of it all. And that's not a bad place to be; Cole comes off as humble but confident, intelligent, and comfortable, and instead of trying to muster up hits, he's choosing to go with kind of production and content that suits him best.
Letting Nas down is kind of an odd thing to rap about, but in the context of J. Cole's career, it means a lot more. This time around, Cole says Nas heard his new music and was "highly impressed." That's symbolic of a lot more, too.—Confusion