Q&A: YBN Cordae talks sharing raw emotions after Grammy noms
BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. (AP) — When YBN Cordae posted a video of himself shedding tears in reaction to receiving two Grammy nominations, the rapper initially regretted sharing his raw emotions to millions on social media.
But Cordae ultimately decided against removing the post, because being “vulnerable and transparent” — just like in his music — is his way of life. His debut album, “The Lost Boy,” is nominated for best rap album and his single, “Bad Idea” featuring Chance the Rapper, is up for best rap song.
The past year and half has been a life-altering experience for Cordae, who spring-boarded into success after his 2017 song “Old (Expletive),” a response to J. Cole’s “1985,” was heard more than a million times in one day, he says. The rapper said the song picked up so much stream he quit his job waiting tables at a restaurant and dropped out of Towson University in Maryland to pursue his music career full-time.
In an interview with The Associated Press while shooting a music video at a luxury home in Beverly Hills, California, the 22-year-old talked about his emotional post, his Grammy nominations and being part of the hip-hop collective YBN, which includes several rappers such as YBN Nahmir and YBN Almighty Jay.
AP: Why did you initially regret posting such an emotional video after hearing about your Grammy nominations?
Cordae: After I posted it, I was thinking like, “Man, maybe I shouldn’t have done that. I should’ve kept that more so private.” But then, I felt like I’m a human being first. With my fan base, I’m just vulnerable. I’m very transparent and vulnerable. In that moment, it wasn’t like the nominations came as a surprise. I had that energy when I was creating this body of work. I was just on the phone with my mom talking about it. We were just talking about all the stuff we’ve been through. And you know, I just got emotional. ...My mom had me when she was 16, and I was talking about all that. For me to learn about the Grammy (stuff), that brought (me) to tears.
AP: Rappers are known for putting up a hard exterior. Did that play a part in you second guessing your post?
Cordae: I don’t try to portray some lifestyle that I’m not living. I’m not the hardest (man) walking around. I’ve never killed nobody before. I’m not sweet. I’m not nobody’s (punk). If the situation comes about, I’m going to handle myself like a man. But I ain’t no gangsta. I don’t have nothing to prove. I’m not trying to portray myself as something that I’m not. I always say I am myself unapologetically.
AP: Why do you think your music has resonated so quickly?
Cordae: I knew what I was creating. Just the transitions, the interludes, the instrumentation. It’s very musical. In the beginning of “Wintertime” (the first track on the album), it begins with a saxophone and ends up with a piano chord. You know, Quincy Jones is talking at the end from a conversation. I actually cut that from a conversation excerpt that me and him had. I put my heart into the music.
AP: You turned down an opportunity to attend the Grammys last year. Why?
Cordae: Because I was like, “I’m going to wait until next year when I’m nominated for something.” Literally, I said that verbatim.
AP: So you spoke this into existence?
Cordae: Exactly. I’ve been speaking this since 2014, bro. I made a vision board with a Grammy plague.
AP: Do you still have it?
Cordae: Yeah, it’s in my room right now. (He pulls out his phone). ...Look at my home screen. It’s a photoshopped picture of me holding Grammys with my face on it. That’s what I’m saying when I say I’m not surprised. It’s not some cocky (expletive). I’m humbled by it. It means the world to me.
AP: How did you feel when people didn’t believe in your Grammy proclamations years ago?
Cordae: Sometimes if you don’t tell your dreams, they can’t shoot them down. A wise man once told me that.
AP: Your song “Bad Idea” with Chance the Rapper is up for a Grammy as well...
Cordae: That surprised me. I’m not going to lie, I wasn’t expecting it. I knew that song was special, but I’ll definitely take it. That shocked me. All I cared about was the body of work. But the fact that the song got there. ... I was like, “Yeah, we lit!”
AP: How would you explain YBN?
Cordae: It’s a renaissance. The real is coming back.
AP: How do you feel shooting your music video and looking over the city of L.A. from this home?
Cordae: It’s dope. I was broke a year and a half ago. I’m always thinking tunnel vision like, you know, “What’s next?” I never get complacent. I just keep working and stay motivated and stay on the grind 24/7. But there’s moments when you sit back, relish in the moment and thank God.
Follow AP Entertainment Writer Jonathan Landrum Jr. on Twitter: http://twitter.com/MrLandrum31