Fashionably Late: A Belated Review on YBN Cordae's The Lost Boy

 Evan Dale // Dec 3, 2019 

Age is just a number. Many hate on the youth, and many, too, hate on young hip-hop culture. People are purists about the culture they know, and the old will always claim their culture superior to that of their offspring. 


But they’re wrong. Superlatives have no place in the conversation. Culture is a reflection of the time and the generation, and YBN Cordae is a young hip-hop artist as important to hip-hop culture – as important to his generation – as any other young talent in music. 


A member of the Maryland-founded YBN crew, Cordae is the resident pen. One of the more gifted songwriters of a generation wrongfully accused of shallowness when in fact accusers are hearing melody, YBN Cordae is also a powerful vocalist. He has it all, and as of July this year, he also has a debut solo album.


The Lost Boy is understated in its title, wide-ranging in its entirety, and is sweeping as a debut from an artist capable of exploring hip-hop music’s many traditions and adjacencies. Undoubtedly, a lot of his talent was unearthed and refined throughout the process of creating and releasing YBN: The Mixtape in 2018. When the conglomerate debut was first dropped to acclaim and international exposure, his friend and collaborative partner, YBN Nahmir emerged a front-running subject under the limelight. But as the mixtape simmered, attention turned to the silver-tongued 22-year-old whose depth of yricism wasn’t only unmatched by his crew, but by a young generation of rappers at large. 


But The Lost Boy emerged as more than just a display of rap. 


There are moments so founded in their intensity, like Broke As Fuck, that makes Cordae a curious case as one of the more passionate and vibrantly capable turn-up rappers even amongst a generation saturated by the type. The gift of so effortlessly exploring that lane undoubtedly comes from his time spent making party anthems alongside the rest of his YBN squad. But then there are other moments, like the very next track, Thousand Words, that paint Cordae as an emotionally in-touch force of thought-provoking poeticism that the SoundCloud generation may very well be lacking in. There are other moments still that display his ability to put together an anthemic and funk-driven transcendent track like RNP featuring Anderson .Paak; some that shine him as a shockingly emotive vocalist and a relatable leader of a young generation in need of direction like Way Back featuring Ty Dolla $ign; some still that exhibit his ability to hold up next to an R&B up-and-comer like Arin Ray or  rap veterans like Pusha T or Meek Mill. 


The Lost Boy is a thesis on just how talented he is. And if YBN Cordae is lost as the title suggests, he’s only lost in the rangy scale of his immense musical talent and seeming self-understanding. And depsite the title, he certainly doesn’t come across sounding like a boy. 


If anything, The Lost Boy is the product of an early bloomer – a veteran whose experience is perhaps sourced not from years of releases and refinement, but from innate wisdom and an undeniable gift at correlating his ability to write and to rap with an overarching sense at understanding music and its role in emotionality. 


From top-to-bottom, similar to Kota the Friend’s FOTO, The Lost Boy is a wide-ranging exploration of hip-hop culture and youth, grounded in experience and tied akin by vibrant passion for hip-hop music and a clear-cut gift with the pen. It’s perhaps a sign that the youngest emerging generation of rappers are being led – at least in part – by humble, thoughtful, and outrageously talented leaders of which YBN Cordae may very well be the most exciting.