YBN Cordae blends old and new rap styles at Fortune

YBN Cordae, 24kgoldn and LONR at Fortune Sound Club, 1/17/20

YBN Cordae first put himself on everyone’s radar with a musical response to fellow North Carolinian J. Cole’s song “1985.” While Cole’s song tried to emphasize the supremacy of his style of conscious lyrical hip-hop over more popular forms of today, Cordae constructively tried to prove that they’re not so different. At his Friday night show at Fortune Sound Club, he couldn’t have made that clearer. 

On paper, his opening acts might have seemed unusual, themselves each belonging to a specific subgenre of hip-hop – LONR bringing folksy sad trap and 24kgoldn citing Fetty Wap of all people as his “idol,” but Cordae is one to appreciate all facets of the hip-hop spectrum.

As he walked out, dressed for the weather in a puffy blue winter jacket, he immediately commanded the crowd’s attention as he sat down on a stool and started telling his story with the track “Wintertime.” He stood back to take it all in, then slowly lowered his arms and quieted the room. He was already in full control, and he knew it. 

“All your stresses, struggles, and pains were left outside of the building,” he said. “All that matters is this brand-new family.” 

Cordae, at his core, is an old-school introspective rapper, his verses telling highly detailed tales of his life and times – but he definitely still has his finger on the pulse of what people want to hear today. Throughout the night, he alternated between less flashy tracks where he simply leaned on the mic stand and said what he needed to and high-octane trap bangers, taking full advantage of the club setting and firing people up. 

You’d be forgiven for thinking you’d walked into some kind of musical poetry slam after the first track, but Cordae immediately stood up with a huge grin and started attacking the beat of “Have Mercy,” one of his more energetic tracks. 

Cutting the music and speeding through technically complex verses, it was just the start of Cordae pulling out quite a few unexpected talents. His slower, soulful music can often mask just how impressive of a songwriter and rapper he is, as it’s easy to get lost in the beats, but witnessing him run through the fast-paced multi-syllabic rhymes live was a sight to behold. 

Cordae even beatboxed the instrumental to “Thousand Words” and showed off his roots in a family of gospel musicians by singing a couple of more melodic choruses a cappella after the songs concluded, showing off some vocal trills and acrobatics you’d never expect him to have. 

Another surprise was just how much of a wholesome guy he turned out to be at times – seemingly in deep concentration, Cordae’s face is often rather stern as he delivers his bars. He delivered multiple inspirational speeches about following your dreams and even encouraged the crowd to hug strangers – “I want to hear that someone met their husband or wife at a Cordae show!” he laughed. 

Dedicating a song to his fallen friend Juice WRLD, who took him on his first tour, the crowd sang his hit “Lucid Dreams” loud before Cordae clarified that they weren’t there to be sad, but rather to celebrate, dropping into the scorching “Broke As F**k” that recounts all his successes. 

The highlight of the show came at the very end, as Cordae performed “RNP,” his biggest hit yet. A track where he rapidly trades bars with Anderson .Paak, it would be difficult to perform alone in concert. Inviting a fan from the audience to be .Paak’s stand-in, she confidently hit every word prompting the crowd to chant her name and Cordae to jump around yelling expletives.

Cordae made it clear that he has huge ambitions, getting very excited over his recent Grammy nominations and telling us that in two years he’ll have booked the arena across the street. With performances of this calibre, it’s hard not to believe him.