YBN Cordae warned us ahead of time that longevity cannot be placed out of sequence.
YBN Cordae isn’t shying away from his obsession with authenticity. When grilled about it on The Breakfast Club this week, Cordae's level-headedness shone through. They had no miserly desire to see him trip over his words, and neither should anyone of us, during our preliminary listen of The Lost Boy. Unfortunately for Cordae, his ornate language isn’t deceiving anyone. By likening himself him to a lonely soul, was he not haphazardly guilty of boasting, creating an air of superiority around his music? A self-fulfilling prophecy is a good place to begin any quest, but on The Lost Boy, Cordae should have asked himself: is introspection the right mode of thinking for a youngster in the game?
Wise beyond his 21 years, Cordae has been cautious not to overplay his recreational love for the culture. Then again, there are moments on The Lost Boy where you can’t help but think: shouldn’t Cordae be out there catching butterflies with the rest of his peer group instead of toiling in the subforums, now that he’s a vetted artist?
Why do I get the sense that YBN Cordae is among those cast adrift trying to recreate Kanye West's The College Dropout. It's no coincidence is it, that both he and Chance The Rapper fell victim to these trappings in the same week? If Cordae isn't careful, his recreational love of hip-hop could also be his undoing. A Harold Melvin sample pack is not an emotional compass. For every soul sample that borders on pastiche, it raises the question, is nostalgia really all that interesting? For YBN Cordae, "Bad Idea" with Chance The Rapper is his "leave it to beaver" moment on The Lost Boy. Enjoyable yes, but only for so long. The sweetness wears off after a couple of rinses.
However, Cordae's debut does merit points for its narrative flow. The album begins in the "Wintertime" quite literally, only to withstand a lifetime's worth of hallmark postings. Unlike on The Big Day, where Chance The Rapper ingratiates his wife in a single act of selfless devotion, YBN Cordae is far more interested in the internalization of his emotions. Every song, including the skits, is presented to us in touchstone moments, even a nightmarish collaboration with Pusha T. "Nightmares Are Real" is made possible thanks to Cordae's vivid recollection of the past. The similarly-titled "Nightmares" off Hell Hath No Fury was certainly playing somewhere off in the background when Cordae drew out his outline for The Lost Boy - in the same manner, Jay-Z's "This Can't Be Life" gets mopped up like a safety blanket of some sort. You know, for those times when inspiration is in short supply.
The balance of Cordae's powers lies in his educated opinion - his capacity for hip-hop trivia, but not his actual lyrical output. He undoubtedly has decent-to-great instincts for the craft, but his rapping, current day, is rather underdeveloped by the standards he imposed on himself with "Old N----s" in May of 2018. In his defense, Cordae doesn't inconvenience himself with minutiae every step of the way. Some of the lines will hit, others not at all. Take, for example, the last song on the album "Lost & Found," when he quips about the devil wearing Prada for the millionth time in recorded history. Yes, avarice is a sin like scotch bonnets are tough to bear in one gulping. There are moments on The Lost Boy where I felt like I was trapped in a pseudo-religious experiment. "Thanksgiving" was forced upon me. YBN's grandmother scorched the earth below her homestead, and a salamander dug itself a creek in the arid parts, before and after Ty Dolla $ign's 2nd verse on "Way Back Home."
All in all, YBN Cordae should be proud of his debut. There can be little doubt, Cordae is a capable songwriter, hook line to mainline, and everything in between. If anything, The Lost Boy reminded us to pay more attention to Arin Ray, whose contributions on "Family Matters" are hella purposeful and not the least bit contrived. Cordae has nowhere to go but UP, if and only if, he breaks this pattern of nostalgia rap. The mundane is to be cherished until it's ready to take root; Cordae struck too soon.