Evan Dale // Mitch Dumler // Dec 29, 2019
When it comes to making an impact as in a way that hasn’t been done before, there are many ways to go about it. An artist can explode onto the scene having never been heard of before, seemingly coming out of nowhere and suddenly being enveloped in a ring of fame and artistic influence. An artist can work for years on their craft, having never gotten the recognition they deserve, then suddenly, unexpectedly, make a creative breakthrough that leads them to limelight and acclaim. Or an artist can build themselves up creatively with a team, build a reputation as a member of that team, and then break from their collaborators towards a solo career founded in the creative background of their past, but heading in a new direction altogether.
YBN Cordae is a product of the latter.
He’s a product of the YBN crew, and they’re a product of the internet era.
Together, YBN Nahmir, Cordae, and Almighty Jay made a commercial breakthrough starting in 2017. By 2018, they released their collaborative debut, YBN: The Mixtape to a surreal amount of success that included collaborations with Chris Brown, Wiz Khaifa, Machine Gun Kelly, Gucci Mane, and others the trio listed as influences. And in 2019, YBN Cordae – the first of the YBN Cordae to release a solo debut, dropped The Lost Boy.
Like YBN: The Mixtape, The Lost Boy is a curated balance of youthful rap culture and influential featuring names. Chance the Rapper, Ty Dolla $ign, Pusha T, Arin Ray, and Meek Mill round out the list of creative influences both vocally and lyrically; emotionally and intensely that Cordae himself not only collaborates well with but is inspired by. And in the collaboration that feels the most natural, fluid, and indicative of the Cordae-driven years to come, Anderson .Paak brings his signature funk and addicting demeanor to RNP.
RNP comes hand-in-hand with a set of visuals that see Cordae and .Paak dressed as funk-era pimps for a game of basketball balanced with their everyday life on the street. And naturally – given the pair’s exuberant nature and unfair musical ability – RNP and its video are instant classics.
It’s not only Cordae’s obvious growth and change in aesthetic since his 2018 deliveries: Old N***as, Kung Fu, and YBN: The Mixtape – that make him such a standout youngster in the hip-hop spectrum; it’s that he’s emerged from a 2019 defined by his debut solo album as one of the most lyrically-capable rappers alive. And being a figure of the internet era and a symbol of Gen-Z creativity, he’s also emerged relatable.
The Lost Boy is a tale of family and friends; love and loss; Thanksgiving and Grandma’s House. And yet, it’s been interwoven with hyphy hip-hop anthems like Broke As Fuck and anthemic classics like RNP and Bad Idea. The entire album unfolds as a thesis of range that the world had been exposed to in glimpses but could have never expected in such capacity. And through all the range, all the emotionality, and all the insane penmanship and lyricism, YBN Cordae shines as an example of why to never overlook the youth or the power that the internet now has in culture.
And as a product of that youth; as a product of that internet culture; and yet, as such a classic example of lyrical hip-hop from a place least likely to source it from, YBN Cordae is, more than anything, a prime example of what the future if hip-hop might – and hopefully will – look like.
For all the influence he was able to earn in 2019; all the connections made, all the music release, all the solo exposure granted, and all the success, limelight and acclaim; YBN Cordae – The Lost Boy – is 2019’s Best New Artist.
See our Comprehensive List of 2019's Best New Artists here: