YBN Cordae Found Himself on The Lost Boy
Cordae Amari Dunston, more popularly known as the rapper YBN Cordae, is no stranger to being lost. While his dad’s love of classic hip hop, such as Rakim and Big L, sparked Cordae’s initial interest in the genre, he couldn’t help himself from exploring further. “Getting lost” is precisely the phrase Cordae uses when describing his experience as a kid, poring over various recommended Youtube videos of hip hop artists.
Cordae began penning rhymes of his own at the age of 15, though he considered the practice only a hobby at the time. As he aged and took his lyrical craft more seriously, Cordae began releasing a string of mixtapes under the moniker Entendre. These projects, consisting of Anxiety (2014), I’m So Anxious (2016), and I’m So Anonymous (2017), were all created while Cordae was completing high school and then enrolled at Towson University.
But Cordae was still lost. Writing lyrics often distracted him from his studies and he ultimately dropped out of Towson University in 2018, explaining that his primary motivation for attending college had been to appease his mother. Shortly after leaving college, Cordae would move to Los Angeles.
After meeting and frequently hanging out with members of the YBN Collective, Los Angeles became the setting where Cordae’s career as a rapper would take off. Differences such as age and the fact that Cordae had never been an avid gamer didn’t stop him from officially joining the group in 2018. This decision prompted the change from Entendre to YBN Cordae and soon both his remix of Eminem’s “My Name Is” and his sharp response to J. Cole’s “1985” went viral.
The YBN Collective released their first full-length project, YBN: The Mixtape, in September of 2018. Although there are flashes of brilliance from Cordae on the record, who is decidedly the group’s most polished rapper, the release as a whole does not feel as if it’s truly his art.
That would all change with YBN Cordae’s proper debut studio album The Lost Boy. Among the singles generating buzz for this record was “Bad Idea”, a song built off of the interpolation of Scarface’s “My Block” and featuring Chance the Rapper. YBN Cordae and Chance the Rapper both released their 2019 albums on the same day in late July. Despite the latter rapper’s immense popularity, it is Cordae’s project that remains far more memorable.
Across the album, YBN Cordae engages in a serious dialogue on the concept of identity, especially in the context of one’s upbringing, family, and future. Family exists as the central theme serving to both bind the album together and provide some of the most emotionally poignant tracks including “Thanksgiving” and “Family Matters”. YBN Cordae’s exquisite ability to capture various emotions stands out as an artistic triumph time and time again throughout the tracklist. Take for example the song “RNP”, whose live performance on The Tonight Show can be viewed here. Both Cordae and featured artist Anderson.Paak exude nothing but unfettered joy as they trade verses and playful bars over a fantastic J. Cole instrumental. Yet right alongside “RNP” on The Lost Boy’s tracklist is “Broke As Fuck”, a defiant anthem about Cordae’s impovershed living conditions while growing up in Maryland.
The Lost Boy was met with both commercial success and widespread critical acclaim. At year’s end, the song “Bad Idea” was nominated for ‘Best Rap Song’ and The Lost Boy was nominated for ‘Best Rap Album’ at the 2020 Grammys. But album sales and awards are not what YBN Corda is searching for. He has voiced on multiple occasions his aspiration to bridge the generational gap in hip hop. He believes that he has the power to do this because of his musical background and understanding of both old school hip hop and what the genre is evolving into during the present day. If The Lost Boy is any indication, YBN Cordae has the potential in him to change hip hop music in the future.
“The Lost Boy in America Tour” will make a stop at The Theater of the Living Arts this Sunday, February 9th. Purchase tickets here to witness an artist who’s genuinely found himself with the music he’s making.