The Lost Boy Has Found Himself: A Review of Cordae’s “The Lost Boy”
Cover Art: Alex Chen
Cordae Amari Dunston (known as Cordae, formerly known as YBN Cordae and Entendre) has grown rapidly in popularity with his distinct soulful rap style. When he started out in the music scene in 2014 with his mixtapes “Anxiety,” “I’m So Anxious,” and “I’m So Anonymous,” Cordae met other rappers when he was gaming, forming the YBN collective with YBN Nahmir, Almighty Jay, Manny, and others. He made his first waves in music with YBN, and became known as the lyricist of the group. He continued to define himself with singles like “Kung-Fu,” “Locationships,” and a response to J. Cole’s “1985.”
It was difficult to predict what Cordae would put forth in “The Lost Boy.” Given the messy “YBN: the Mixtape” he had released the previous year and the fact that his early jazz-rap pieces were released years prior, “The Lost Boy” could have been any mix of the two.
“The Lost Boy” (2019) turned out to be a project of self-exploration for Maryland rapper Cordae. The debut album was his first since he had stepped away from YBN after they released “YBN: the Mixtape” in 2018, which was an almost overwhelming melting pot of styles. Cordae was looking to solidify himself as an artist to watch with a fusion of soulful, jazz-like beats, clever lyricism, flow, and nods to his Soundcloud-like roots, and he did just that throughout the album.
The album includes features from Chance the Rapper, Anderson .Paak, Ty Dolla $ign, Pusha T, Arin Ray, Meek Mill, and a beat produced by J. Cole. 15 songs in 45 minutes. Since he is truly showing his influences in some tracks that sound like songs by other artists like “Bad Idea,” which could be a Chance the Rapper song with a Cordae feature, Cordae will have to continue finding his own sound going forward.
“Wintertime” starts off with a mellow, gentle beat, leaving plenty of room for Cordae’s “lyrical exercise.” He explores a sense of being lost and finding himself with lyrics like “I was lost like Dory, but I'm finally found.” A jazz horn gives the track a calm feel, setting the stage for the rest of the album. On another highlight track, “Thanksgiving,” Cordae raps about bringing his girlfriend around his family on Thanksgiving. He composes strong images of home cooking and family with lines like “Mac and cheese up in the oven, grandma finished cookin' / Thanksgiving 'round the corner, need banana pudding.” On the other hand, he also introduces his fears that his relationship might not be going well and might fall apart: “Brought you home to mama even though you said I shouldn't / Might not make it to Christmas / But I'm hoping and I'm pushing for a better day.” He knows bringing his girlfriend home will make Thanksgiving a good time, but still shares his concerns about the future. Such ideas of family extend to his introspective song “Family Matters,” which reflects on both Cordae’s and Arin Ray’s positive and negative experiences and lessons they’ve had with family and their upbringings.
“Broke as Fuck” is a trap banger in the album with extra lyricism and instrumental elements. It has hints of a Soundcloud track, but Cordae incorporates his own style. The track transitions at 1:58 to a groovy, soulful beat that demonstrates Cordae’s blend of trap hard rap and relaxed lyrical play, which truly shines in the second section of the song. He once again plays into the theme of being lost and his upbringing: “Lost boy, n****, no coordinates / Remember Christmas? We was giftless / Three foot tree, no ornaments.”
The album has a nice closer and verse to tie up the themes of finding oneself throughout the project. “The Lost Boy” was a solid debut for Cordae. He has since released the singles “Gifted (feat. Roddy Ricch),” “Soda (feat. Take A DayTrip),” and “The Parables” most recently, which steered away from his soulful style but maintained his clever lyricism. With a mix of trap bangers like “Broke as Fuck” and soulful, Gospel-like tracks like “Grandma’s House - Skit” and “Sweet Lawd - Skit” on “The Lost Boy,” Cordae definitely set himself up nicely as an artist to watch in the upcoming years.