This album was released on July 26th this year. YBN Cordae seems to be a lot of kids’ favorite rapper right now. Pretty much every other person on the planet has made this comparison already, but he’s basically J. Cole lite. I personally don’t really think he’s that great of a rapper, but everyone seems to love him for some reason. I mean, he’s certainly far better than most of the other popular rappers out right now, and I think he’s one of the best rappers that was featured on this year’s XXL Freshman cover, but that’s really not saying much. He’s not an artist who excites me at all. I was pretty underwhelmed by the freestyle he did for the aforementioned XXL Freshman list. The first song I ever heard from him was Kung Fu, which I really liked. I was hoping most of his music would be more like that, but that unfortunately doesn’t seem to be the case. Anyway, I do think that this’ll probably end up being a pretty good album, but I’m not so sure that it’ll be that memorable for me. To me YBN Cordae just seems like another good rapper. It’s not hard to find “good” rappers right now though. Not in the underground at least. He doesn’t really stand out to me much, but I’m hoping he’ll change my mind with this project.
1. Wintertime produced by Cardiak, Kid Culture, Terrace Martin & illuid.haller
The album got off to a pretty great start; I really like this song. The production does in fact sound exactly like something I’d hear on a J. Cole album, but it’s still pretty good. The first verse is actually really well written from a technical standpoint; the multisyllabic rhyme scheme he employed throughout the verse was really nice. There are a couple lines here and there that seem pretty irrelevant in terms of the actual content, but that’s arguably a nitpick on my part.
Whoever said shit was easy forever lied
I mesmerize, how simple decisions can jeopardize
When Martin Luther cheated and stared in Coretta’s eyes
This is lyrical exercise, told my idols to step aside
The sung hook with uncredited vocals from Quincy Jones & PJ is nothing special in my opinion, but it serves its purpose well enough. I think the saxophone contribution from Terrace Martin sounds great though. Overall, the song is dope. I like both of the verses, and the production is pretty nice.
2. Have Mercy produced by Flippa, Kid Culture & Nils Noehden
I think this is one of the singles that I actually heard when it initially dropped. I was kind of indifferent towards it at the time, but I think it’s a solid track. It’s definitely not a highlight on the album, but I do like it to some extent. I think the beat is pretty cool, but I’m not crazy about the hook. I just wish it was shortened because it feels like it lasts forever. The first verse is very good. I like the diss targeting boomers a lot.
Fuck old niggas, boy, your day’s over
You mad at me because your pace slower
Bitter nigga, you a shade-thrower; I was just sleepin’ on a sofa
Now I ride with a paid chauffeur
The second verse was relatively weak in my opinion; it almost seemed like a freestyle. It wasn’t particularly terrible. It was just a little underwhelming.
I penetrate it; been the greatest
New house, renovate it
I got the juice; you eliminated
Pussy niggas always instigatin’
I think the song is pretty good overall. The instrumental outro is probably my favorite part of the whole track though.
3. Sweet Lawd (Skit) produced by illuid.haller & Kid Culture
This track is just Cordae flipping the first quatrain of the hook from the previous track into a Gospel song, which is uh… I guess that’s kind of interesting. I mean, it’s well done for what it is. I don’t like what it is though lol. I’m not into Gospel music, and I don’t think Cordae does it particularly well, so this isn’t something I’d ever listen to again. It’s an okay song though. It’s certainly not unlistenable.
4. Bad Idea featuring Chance the Rapper produced by Kid Culture & Bongo
This is one of the few singles that I heard prior to the release of the full album that I really enjoyed. I think it’s the best song on the project up to this point. The way the previous track transitions into this one is really nice because this song maintains that same soulful, Gospel-inspired atmosphere. I think the first verse from Cordae is pretty good, and the Gil-Scott Heron interpolation on the hook is nice too. The uncredited vocals from Ant Clemons & SiR are cool. Chance’s verse is actually pretty damn good too, aside from the fireplace line…
Confused where all my art went, monsters in a quiet place
Some of these decisions is like Sharpie on a dry-erase
I know they thought I wouldn’t, but I’m a fireplace
I had my cake and ate it too, that shit is an acquired taste
That line was really goddamn lame, but the verse was dope overall. It just makes the quality of his debut album all the more confusing. Anyway, I’m glad Cordae came in for a third verse because it would’ve felt a little incomplete had he not done that. I think the song is very good. I don’t really have any major complaints. It’s dope to me. The music video is pretty great too. Check that shit out.
5. Thanksgiving produced by Coop the Truth & Kid Culture
This song has yet another very warm, soulful instrumental, which I like a lot. It sounds like they sampled a woodpecker, which is really cool. The sung hook isn’t amazing or anything, but I think the first verse is great, despite the content not being particularly interesting to me. It’s mainly just his flow that stands out the most. He sounds great. This song actually reminds me much more of something a Chicago artist like Saba or Noname would do rather than J. Cole. Honestly, this track just makes me really depressed because it reminds me of how fucking lonely I am, but it’s still really good. I think it’s one of the better songs on the album. It’s dope.
6. R.N.P. featuring Anderson .Paak produced by J. Cole
This is ostensibly the most popular song from this album, and I’m honestly not exactly sure why. I don’t really think it’s much better than most of the other tracks. I actually like it far less than a sizable portion of the other songs. It’s a bit more uptempo than most of the preceding material though, so that was a nice change of pace. I’m personally not really crazy about the hook from Anderson .Paak, but it’s solid I guess. I think my biggest issue with the song is the production from J. Cole to be honest. I really think the beat kinda sucks. I mean, it’s not the worst beat I’ve ever heard. It’s just boring to me. I didn’t really think about it until I heard this song, but Cole has really fallen off as a producer. I think the reason he sounds so good on features and on Revenge of the Dreamers III is because he’s actually spitting over decent beats instead of his own dry ass, bland ass, dull ass production. Maybe I’m being too harsh. I probably shouldn’t make bold, sweeping statements about J. Cole as an artist. I’ll just keep it on a small scale and say that this beat is mid. Anyway, if I had to guess I’d say the main reason people were hyping this song up so much is because of the structure. The whole track has Cordae & Anderson trading bars pretty seamlessly. They honestly have really great chemistry here. It’s not the best back and forth rapping I’ve heard this year—that goes to Nems & Spit Gemz—but it’s still very good. It’s cool to hear Anderson .Paak rapping again. I think he’s a good rapper, but I prefer when he sings on his own albums. A good mixture of the two is ideal. Anyway, the second verse is much more impressive than the first one. They were trading quatrains in the first verse, but they’re going bar for bar in the second one. Again, I think this is a cool track, but it’s certainly not a favorite of mine. I guess it’s a good change of pace, which is probably why people were so enamored with it. I like a lot of the other tracks more than this one, but it’s still good. I fuck with it.
7. Broke As Fuck produced by Take a Daytrip, Russ Chell, Coop the Truth, Kid Culture & Smoko Ono
This is the one single from this album that really impressed me before I heard the full project. I’m really glad he finally delivered a more uptempo song because the preceding material was kinda… I don’t wanna say it’s boring because I do like most of it, but when you have that much slow-paced, smooth, soulful shit, it can start to feel monotonous. This is one of the most energetic songs on the album though. I’m not really crazy about Cordae’s flow on the hook of this song; it sounds really awkward to me for some reason. It’s like the syllables are landing slightly earlier than they should. It sounds much better once his actual verse starts. I think the verse itself is solid, but I have to admit that the line about the doctor slapping his ass when he was born left me scratching my head. It’s not really an issue. I just don’t get it. Anyway, I was already enjoying the song, but the beat switch after the second recital of the hook is really what pushed the track to the next level for me. I don’t think the first beat is really that great, but the second one is fantastic. The verse he spits over this beat is really great too, even though it’s obvious that he punched in a lot of the lines. The song is still dope af.
8. Thousand Words produced by Cardiak & Terrace Martin
I think a lot of the hooks on this project are kinda weak honestly, but the one on this track is actually really goddamn good. Cordae’s vocals sound surprisingly great, and the uncredited background vocals from Syd tha Kyd are a nice touch as well. I think the first verse is pretty well written. The content about social media addiction just doesn’t really interest me at all. That kinda shit just comes off a little corny to me honestly. I mean, I’m sure it’s a real issue that people struggle with, but I just don’t really relate to it that much. Do I use social media? Of course. However, it’s not like it really affects my life that much—certainly not in a negative way. This song just gives me flashbacks to J. Cole’s Photograph. Don’t get me wrong; I think this is a dope track. I just think I would’ve liked it a lot more if the content was more interesting. The verses are still good though. Cordae’s flow is nice, and they’re well written and performed from a technical standpoint. This isn’t one of my favorite tracks, but I do like it. It’s dope.
9. Way Back Home featuring Ty$ produced by G Koop & Kid Culture
This is unfortunately one of the tracks that I don’t really care for. I wasn’t looking forward to this track on my first listen, and, much to my chagrin, Cordae performs the hook, which means that Ty$ handles a whole verse himself. However, Ty$’s verse actually ended up being the best aspect of the whole song in my opinion, which was quite shocking to say the least. Cordae actually sounds exactly like J. Cole on the hook in my opinion. I had to check and make sure he didn’t have an uncredited feature on this song. I don’t really care for the hook, but it’s not unlistenable or anything. I really don’t care for the first verse from Cordae at all though. He sings the entire thing, and I guess it’s tolerable, but it’s not something I’d willingly listen to again. Again, Ty$ somehow completely stole the show in my opinion. He was basically rapping on this song, which was interesting. I mean, his delivery was really melodic, but he was flowing like a rapper. It was like what Smino does. Anyway, I don’t think this is a bad song at all, but it’s not something I’ll ever be listening to again. It’s decent.
10. Grandma’s House (Skit) produced by YBN Cordae & illuid.haller
This is easily the worst track on the album for me. It’s a lot like the first skit in that it’s another soulful, Gospel inspired interlude with no rapping. However, this time the vocals are performed by Cordae’s deceased grandmother, who frankly sounds fucking terrible. I’m sorry. It feels wrong just saying that, but I have to be honest. Her nasally, squeaky voice is just really difficult to stomach for me. This shit is wack.
11. Been Around produced by Kid Culture & illuid.haller
I think this is actually my favorite song on the project. The production is phenomenal, and the first verse is very good. It’s a really chill, laidback, mellow, cute, endearing song. For some reason the beat makes me think of Twilight Town from Kingdom Hearts II. It also kinda reminds me of Kanye West’s Heard ‘Em Say. The uncredited vocals on the hook from Quincy Jones & Hasani sound really great. The second verse is dope too.
I dropped out of school; Pops thinkin’ I’m a fool
It may seem all cool, but I’m feelin’ awful
I was down in the dumps with my confidence gone
But then my whole life changed, droppin’ prominent songs
The content isn’t super original or anything we haven’t heard from countless artists in the past, but it’s still well done here. I don’t have any issues with this song at all. I think it’s dope af.
12. Nightmares Are Real featuring Pusha T produced by illuid.haller, Bazexx & Slim Allen
I think this track is cool, but it’s not nearly as great as I was hoping it’d be when I saw the feature. I think the beat is pretty solid, and I appreciate the inclusion of another relatively uptempo track. The first verse from Cordae is fine, but the sung hook is actually kinda bad. However, it thankfully doesn’t ruin the song for me. I think Pusha T’s verse was solid, but certainly far from his best of 2019. It’s one of the weakest verses I’ve heard from him in a minute. I like the song, but it’s definitely not a highlight on this album for me. It’s cool though. I fuck with it.
13. Family Matters featuring Arin Ray produced by Bongo
This is the last real standout track on the album for me. As a matter of fact, it’s the final song that I actually like at all. The following two tracks didn’t really do anything for me unfortunately. Anyway, I think the beat on this song is absolutely stellar, and the first verse from Cordae is pretty dope too. This is another track that reminded me of Kanye’s early material. The production and the way Cordae was flowing made me think of All Fall’s Down for some reason. The content also seems like something Kanye would’ve rapped about. It’s a bit different than Family Business, but I guess that’s the closest thing I can compare it to.
‘Cause I done been through a lot, my family goes through worse
Cryin’ on this airplane how I wrote this verse
They be sufferin’ in silence; they don’t tell me a thing
All they tell me is, “Nigga, go excel in your dreams”
Anyway, I think Arin Ray sounds great on the hook, but I could’ve done without the uncredited background vocals from The Ppl. Despite that minor gripe, this is still one of the best songs on the album in my opinion. I really love it. The production is superb, and the verses are all very well written. This shit is dope af.
14. We Gon’ Make It featuring Meek Mill produced by Bongo & Kid Culture
This song just felt really unnecessary to me. I think the actual rapping from Cordae & Meek is solid, but that sung hook from Meek is honestly really goddamn bad. I also don’t really like the beat. I mean, I think the instrumental itself is fine, but it flips the exact same sample as Jay-Z’s This Can’t Be Life, which is obviously a far superior track. There’s no reason for me to listen to this song when that track exists. I was surprised by the legitimately solid performance from Meek Mill on the second verse, but his singing on the hook was so bad that it ruined the track for me. Cordae did his thing, but any time someone proclaims themself as Hip Hop’s “savior” I involuntarily roll my eyes. I don’t think this track is bad, but it’s easily the worst song here that isn’t labeled as a “skit.” It’s mediocre to me.
15. Lost & Found produced by Maneesh & Rasool
This is another song that honestly just felt really unnecessary. The title had me thinking this would be a really grandiose outro, but it ended up just feeling like a bonus track. The whole song is just one verse over an average beat, and it’s one of Cordae’s worst verses on the album. Nothing about this song stands out in a good way. The verse seems like a freestyle. The XXXTENTACION praise almost made me throw up a little bit in my mouth.
Rest in peace X, the Pac of his time
Was manifested, can’t stop the divine
The nigga speakin’ like Barack in his prime
He also has a line where he basically says “I’m not a rapper, I’m a musician,” which of course made me roll my eyes. I just don’t really know what happened with this track. It’s mid, but, like, to a bizarre extent. It just feels like such a random and drastic drop in quality. Needless to say, I was absolutely bewildered. With all that said, I wouldn’t say it’s a bad song. It’s certainly a low point on the album, but I’ll go easy on it and just say that it’s mediocre.
This album is kinda good. I mean, I enjoyed it, but it’s a heavily flawed project. I do think Cordae is a very talented rapper. Honestly, I feel like everything I say about J. Cole applies to Cordae here, and I know it’s a cliché comparison, but it’s just so apt. He’s a talented rapper who just makes certain artistic decisions that kinda tarnish his work for me. I wish this project was more diverse sonically. He also could’ve pared it down to like 10 tracks. Some times the features fuck a song up. Sometimes the production is just a little flat. Some times the hook is rough. I think Cordae has a decent voice, but I don’t want to hear him sing a whole verse; when I listen to YBN Cordae, I want him to be rapping. I’m obviously not saying he’s not allowed to sing. I’m just saying it’s unlikely for me to enjoy it. I don’t want this conclusion to sound overly negative because I did in fact enjoy this album. I think it’s good. I have a lot of problems with it, but I think as long as he grows from this point and is able to surpass this he’ll have a bright future. This is solid work.
Favorite Song: Been Around
Least Favorite Song: Grandma’s House
Watch the videos below for more thoughts on this album.