- Gov't Name: Cordae Dunston
- Age: 21
- Reppin': Suitland, Md.
- Twitter: @ybncordae
- Instagram: @ybncordae
- Notable Releases: Singles: “Have Mercy,” “Kung Fu,” “Locationships,” “Old Niggas”; Guest Appearances: Aminé’s “Blackjack (Remix),” DJ Khalil’s “Elevate,” Logic’s “Mama / Show Love”
- Label: Art At War/Atlantic
- Currently Working On: Debut album, The Lost Boy, due July 26.
- Surprised About Who Is Missing: “My nigga, Almighty Jay.”
- Influenced by: “Jay-Z was huge. I was like 2 years old throwing up my diamond, rapping. I know all of The Blueprint. I’ve heard that album 1,000 times. And Reasonable Doubt. Jay-Z is a huge influence; Nas is a huge influence, Big L, Eminem and [Dr.] Dre. That’s a crazy five.”
- As a Freshman in High School: “I was 5-foot, 90 pounds. I just moved to a brand-new school, so I was outgoing. I’m the same now, really. An extrovert—I don’t like the word ‘outgoing’—on my cool, chill shit. I was a good-ass student, consistently on honor roll. I was a class clown; I had everybody laughing. I was on the debate team. I wanted to be a lawyer, basketball team, baseball team, everything. That was me networking to spread my music.”
TRUTH ON BEING AN XXL FRESHMAN: “It’s super dope. I’m super grateful. I put XXL Freshman on my vision board. I put it on there last year, at the beginning of 2018. I’ve always said that, since 2014. Even back in 2015 [and] 2016, I always said 2019 is the year I’m going to be an XXL Freshman. I was voted most likely to be famous in middle school and high school, so I was definitely known as the rap nigga. I stamped that, literally.
I started recording consistently when I was 18. Nobody really supported my music [when I was] in college. Some people did, but the people in power [didn’t]. I think everybody was secretly fucking with my shit. [For] my first official video, I was like, What better way to do it than ‘My Name Is’—like, the greatest introduction track. My roommate Wayne said, ‘You go on an Eminem beat, you gotta go hard.’ And I was like, ‘Bet. I’m gonna go stupid.’ What better way to introduce myself than to hop on that?
I was in the studio with Anderson .Paak and Dr. Dre was in there mixing. All of Dre’s homies were giving me the best endorsement, like, ‘This young nigga about to take over the game! This is the future!’ The next day, he called me. He heard my shit and fucked with it [so he] invited me to his crib. He was putting me on game. We was in the studio for, like, 20 hours, just making music. I’ve accomplished some cool stuff so far, but you can’t start smelling the roses like, Ah, I’m fucking buzzing. I’m killing the game right now. Nah. [There’s] so much more I want to do. I’m not satisfied.
[Before being chosen as a Freshman], I was like, I know I’m on this muthafucka. They fucked up if they don’t put me on this shit, my nigga. I told my mother—she thought I was already on there because of a post about me [from] one of the last issues. She thought that was Freshman. I always wanted to be a Freshman because XXL is really important in the history of hip-hop. It embodies the culture. The people who came before us was on XXL: The Notorious B.I.G., Tupac [Shakur], Jay-Z and Roc-A-Fella, Nas. [On ‘Marshall Mathers’] Eminem [raps], ‘XXL! XXL! Now, your magazine shouldn’t have so much trouble to sell! Fuck it, I’ll even buy a couple myself.’ It just embodies the culture of hip-hop. All of the people I looked up to have been on XXL.
I used to watch Kendrick [Lamar]’s cypher; I remember Joey [Bada$$]’s cypher and Chance [The Rapper]’s cypher. I look forward to the Freshman cyphers every year. I don’t know [which is my favorite]. I don’t remember—besides Kendrick’s—there being a standout verse that went crazy. But I didn’t [prepare] because that’s the fun—freestyling is supposed to be a sport, a fun thing. So, let’s keep it that. Hip-hop was founded by niggas freestyling. That’s very essential. [The] 2019 [class is my favorite]. We got a dope-ass class. I literally picked this exact group out. [Freshman is] gonna take me to a whole new stratosphere. It’s gon’ do what it’s supposed to do. It’s gonna keep me where I’m already headed. It’s in the plan. Just keep me on the path.”
YBN CORDAE'S 2019 XXL FRESHMAN INTERVIEW
"I put XXL Freshman on my vision board," the 21-year-old lyricists tells XXL. "I put it on there last year, at the beginning of 2018. I’ve always said that, since 2014. Even back in 2015 [and] 2016, I always said 2019 is the year I'm going to be a XXL Freshman."
All of that manifesting and speaking into existence has paid off for the Suitland, Md. native, as have his thoughtful rhymes and fun tracks. YBN Cordae is a member of the esteemed 2019 XXL Freshman Class, an attention-grabbing honor to follow quite a few early career highlights.
"I always wanted to be a Freshman because XXL is really important in the history of hip-hop," Cordae says. "It embodies the culture. The people who came before us was on XXL: Biggie, Tupac [Shakur], Hov and Roc-A-Fella, Nas... All of the people I looked up to have been on XXL."
Cordae's moment began with a 2018 update of "My Name Is," originally the breakout single of one of his rap idols, Eminem. He followed that up with "Old Niggas," a smart, sharp retort to J. Cole's "1985" that quickly went viral. Cordae hit the road with Juice Wrld last year and also toured with his YBN crew, contributing to several tracks on September 2018's YBN: The Mixtape, including the mosh-pit friendly "Kung Fu" and "Target," a take on racial profiling.
Since that early momentum, Cordae has released several singles of his own, including "Have Mercy"—which he depicted with an innovative double feature music video—and "Locationships," a nod to Jay-Z's 2001 track "Girls, Girls, Girls." Next up is his anticipated debut album, The Lost Boy, which is set for release on July 26.
"I’ve accomplished some cool stuff so far, but you can’t start smelling the roses like, ‘Ah, I’m fucking buzzing. I’m killing the game right now,’" Cordae says. "Nah. [There’s] so much more I want to do. I’m not satisfied.”
He continues: "[Freshman is] gonna take me to a whole new stratosphere. It's gon' do what it's supposed to do. It's going to keep me where I'm already headed. It's in the plan—just keep me on the path I'm already headed.”
Watch YBN Cordae reflect on his rise up the hip-hop ranks in the video up top.
See Photos of YBN Cordae Behind the Scenes at the 2019 XXL Freshman Cover Shoot
YBN CORDAE’S 2019 XXL FRESHMAN FREESTYLE
"I didn’t [prepare] because that's the fun—freestyling is supposed to be a sport, a fun thing," Cordae told XXL back in April, on the day of the shoot. "So, let's keep it that. Hip-hop was founded by niggas freestyling. That's very essential."
Already considered one of the nicest new lyricists in his class of MCs, the Suitland, Md. rep knows the stakes are high every time he steps to the mic. And while he took a looser approach to his must-see cypher rhyme (coming soon!), he digs deep into his mental rhyme book for his solo freestyle, which he delivers with poise and purpose.
"Never will I ever forget beginnings," the 21-year-old rapper starts, introducing himself and his intentions in hip-hop. "A country boy who humble and grateful for his position/Never satisfied or complacent, my intuition/Is telling me longevity is the race that you finish."
After name-dropping the coming-of-age 1994 comedy/drama Forrest Gump—a cinema classic released three years before Cordae's birth—the YBN lyricist closes his verse with intensity, setting himself apart from his peers.
"I'm sick of this/Feeling caged in like Nicholas/Blood pressure high, stress levels is ridiculous/Came in the game, no chain, on some different shit/I'm just getting started, my nigga, this ain't the end of it."
It really is just the beginning for YBN Cordae, who has a bright future in music ahead of him. Most immediate is his debut album, The Lost Boy, which is set for release on July 26. On the project, he's sure to show off more of his clever wordplay and challenge his capacity for songwriting across a full project. Until then, check out Cordae's slick XXL Freshman freestyle above.
YBN CORDAE’S ABCs
YBN Cordae makes stringing together clever couplets seem as easy as ABCs. So, it was only right that XXL put the YBN rep on camera for an installment of our word-association series ABCs to see where his mind and vocabulary leads him.
On the day of XXL's 2019 Freshman shoot, YBN Cordae came off the top—cypher and solo freestyle aside—to spit out the first words that come to mind when running through the alphabet. He reels off three-syllable words at will—applesauce, bittersweet, conundrum—before referencing a childhood icon, name-dropping Looney Tunes own dark-feathered Daffy Duck.
Some of Cordae's word choices are likely indicative of Cordae's expectations for his own career. For the letter L, he goes with "longevity," followed by "never falling off" for N. But he has some fun with it, too. On Q, he goes for the multisyllabic "quintuplets." By the time he gets to Z, Cordae is reciting the hook from "Zeze," Kodak Black's collaboration with Travis Scott and Offset.
ABCs was just one portion of YBN Cordae's 2019 XXL Freshman experience, which also included a solo portrait shoot, group shots that produced the fun cover image, an a cappella freestyle, group cypher and solo on-camera interview. You can check out the rest of Cordae's lexicon flexing in the video above.
BLUEFACE, YBN CORDAE AND RICO NASTY'S 2019 XXL FRESHMAN CYPHER
California and Maryland are about as far away from each other on the U.S. map as two states can be, but for 2019 XXL Freshmen Rico Nasty (Largo, Md.), Blueface (Los Angeles) and YBN Cordae (Suitland, Md.), hip-hop is the tie that binds.
The trio were grouped together for the cypher and roundtable segments of the Freshmen process and appeared to share a friendly chemistry despite never working together. The quickly-established unity makes for an interesting cypher round.
“I ain’t never asked for a handout, but I came up now everybody got they hand out/I just got my truck matte red with the five percent tint and the rims blacked out,” she snaps. “Every nigga round me going to black out/Put the pussy on a nigga, make him tap out/Just say where and my nigga pop out/If you don’t get the picture, they gon’ carve you out.”
Blue and Cordae jokingly bust out The Woah dance in the background while she goes off.
YBN Cordae gets a beat switch for his turn up to bat, which is slightly slower. The GRAND-produced beat gives the “Bad Idea” rapper a chance to get his bars off loud and clear while Blue punctuates the rhymes with ad-libs. Cordae even cleverly finds a way to sprinkle both of his cypher partners’ name into his raps.
“Dump my old bitch ’cause she was too basic/Now my girl claiming that I’m too racist/’Cause I don’t really like green, only blue faces,” he spits. “Whole outfit new to the shoelaces/They say that he so classy, but I just want to be poppin’ like Rico Nasty.”
Blueface tags in last and swags over the track with his satisfyingly unorthodox flow. “Double XL, just went stupid/If he trippin’, he fallin', stupid/Drop-top Martin, no Lawrence, my shit roofless/I need a Kim Possible to play with my Rufus,” the "Thotiana" rapper rhymes. “Famous crip, if I pull up, then she blue it/Hate to be my ex because she salty like some Lucas/No time for nonsense, I need a deposit/I wanted to be rich instead of regular, so I left college."
Watch Rico Nasty, Blueface and YBN Cordae’s 2019 XXL Freshman Cypher above.
BLUEFACE, YBN CORDAE AND RICO NASTY'S 2019 XXL FRESHMAN ROUNDTABLE INTERVIEW
The XXL Freshman process can feel like an “I made it” moment, with a full day of interviews, photoshoots and more interviews, the likes that some artists in the class have yet to previously experience. Rico Nasty, Blueface and YBN Cordae are grateful to have been inducted into the 2019 XXL Freshman class, but they refuse to rest on their laurels.
The trio, who also participated in the cypher together, are additionally tag-team partners in the roundtable discussion. They seem to enjoy the collaborative aspect of the day. “It’s really just dope, more so seeing the other Freshmen, because, like, I’m still a fan, at the end of the day, of the XXL Freshman class and of the artists as well," says YBN Cordae. "So, it’s really dope to like, ‘Oh shit, he’s on it.’ So, it’s really dope, just to mingle with everybody and get vibe.”
Rico Nasty adds, “Every year, [XXL] really points out whose been poppin' big shit throughout the year; creatively, fashion-wise. All the artists have one component or all of them, and that shit is like super fire seeing everybody get together.”
The situation causes Cordae to recall a previous time meeting Rico. “It’s a crazy coming of age moment,” he recalls. “I was in the studio with Rico like three years ago. We was going to the same studio, like three to four years ago. This is when she was like poppin' locally and I was just like 200 followers. I was on some fan shit. Then just to see her increase like every year and we both on here this year, it’s gon’ mean a lot for Maryland and the whole DMV.”
“Y’all been doing this for years,” he says. “So, it’s good to be a part of the history, get your foot in. Hopefully, we stay in.”
Along with the benefits of earning a spot (Blueface: “More watches, more chains, more bitches, more money, more sneakers”), Rico admits there is some pressure to being one of the chosen ones.
“It feels like everything you do now has to be double-XL, you know, triple-XL,” she adds. “You gotta be big. You gotta go big or go home from here on out.”
Check out Rico Nasty, Blueface and YBN Cordae’s 2019 XXL Freshman roundtable discussion above.