Throughout Hip Hop generations there are a few staple artists who carry the flag for that time. Big Daddy Kane, LL Cool J, Rakim, and more led the 80s — Biggie, Tupac, JAY-Z, Nas along with others carried the 90s — Eminem, Lil Wayne, Kanye West, etc for 00s — Drake, Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole are in the pole position currently. YBN Cordae is the leader of the new school. His debut album The Lost Boy dropped July 26th and it's the best album of 2019 thus far.
The LP is one of those debut projects that will be remembered in time. The 21-year-old prodigy made a cohesive body of work that flows through flawlessly in a climate where albums are being released with no direction or thought. He made sure his first album wasn’t just a bunch of songs put together but that they all had meaning and told a story.
The concept record is about a lost boy, no deception in the title. Throughout the story, the boy, raised by his now late grandmother, is constantly trying to find himself while facing the challenges of family trauma, drugs, income, being lit in college, student loan debt, social media pressure and mental health. The transition from boy to a man causes the adolescence to doubt himself and lose confidence in all aspects of life.
The PG County native felt music was the only escape. He poured his heart and soul into his craft and proved to himself that he could do it. The Lost Boy is a story everybody can learn from if you had any amount of struggle and success you can relate to the emotions of the songs. He also challenged his generation to step up the lyricism and challenged the older generation to accept the new wave. Cordae is a student of Hip Hop and it shows in his interviews and music.
The album has one misstep, “RNP,” the J. Cole-produced track featuring Anderson .Paak. With three dope artists the song was almost guaranteed to be a favorite on the album, instead it’s a track that could have been scratched. Besides it not being cohesive with the rest of the project “RNP” came across as a failed attempt at a mainstream hit — a pop song without much meaning unlike the rest of the LP.
The other features are all home runs; the songs marry perfectly with the artists chosen. Pusha T was the only artist meant for “Nightmares Are Real.” The same can be said about “We Gon Make It” featuring Meek Mill. Ty Dolla $ign had the most unexpected verse on the album. Mainstream wise Dolla $ign is known for pop/r&b tracks without in-depth subject matter. He allowed himself to be vulnerable, which being in the studio with another artist who is open with his truths can do.
The production was well-thought-out and crafted faultlessly. Cordae had numerous producers that contributed to the project, including Kid Culture, Bongo ByTheWay, and CoopTheTruth. They all bought into the theme and sonic coherence of the LP. “Broke As F**k,” “Lost and Found” and “Thousand Words” are highlights but honestly I could list the majority of the tracks, it’s that well-produced. "Thanksgiving" is one of my favorites, it's a unique and dope approach to a love song over a soulful instrumental.
Deep down inside, nobody really wanna be nameless
Afraid of being forgotten, so this troll shit, we plottin’
Sittin’ on this phone for hours, feel my brain getting rotten
But I can give a fuck less, dawg, a nigga is poppin’
All these bitches that’s flockin’, shit, a nigga got options
But what’s really important is such a silly distortion
We all stuck in this matrix, tryna hide our misfortunes
The album touches on multiple topics, one being social media anxiety covered in the aforementioned “Thousand Words.” The lyrics are timely and advanced; the fact that a 21-year-old has this perspective now is another sign he will be transcendent. All of our Hip Hop giants are great thinkers who challenge the status quo and seek answers to why things are the way they are.
I was lost like Dory, but I’m finally found
Was addicted to the Xans to calm anxiety down
And I never would admit because society clowns
Any nigga with a problem, they can’t quiet me now, nigga
At the end of the album, the lost boy is found. He finds his confidence through music and that gives him everything he wanted. The boy chose faith over fear and grew into a man. Yet in a strange but real way he sometimes wishes he could go back to the times of his come up. The journey can be more fulfilling than the goal.
The Lost Boy has an incredible amount of jewelry which would need a dissertation to dissect it accurately. The thought-provoking collection is filled with real-life experiences and emotions accompanied with a story and good music. If that isn’t the makings of timeless music, I’m not sure what is.