It’s brain-boggling that YBN Cordae went from an hourly wage at the TGI Fridays in Columbia, Md., to clocking studio time with Dr. Dre over the past umpteen months — but in a way, the Prince George’s County-raised rapper was simply racing to catch up to his peers. “There are a lot of dope people in the DMV: WillThaRapper, Big Flock, GoldLink, Logic, IDK, Rico Nasty, Goonew and Q Da Fool,” Cordae says. “Seeing them get national attention motivated me to do my thing.”
His thing is what sets him apart, though. The 21-year-old raps with a heavy dexterity that never seems to weigh him down — the result of an adolescence spent on YouTube, studying the ornate rhyme-magic of Nas, Rakim, Big L and other old-school superheroes. “The artists with lyrical content and who say something seem to outlast the fad rappers — I always noticed that,” Cordae says. “Words are powerful. The tongue is powerful. And when you write it down, and record it, and press it up, it’s 100 million times more powerful. It’s important to utilize our tongue to help people.”
So instead of patrolling yesteryear’s aesthetic boundary lines, Cordae’s music seems to be envisioning a broader tomorrow — a wide-open future he can fill with words. He knows it’ll be hard work. “I’m far from fully formed,” he says, citing the virtuosity rule made famous by Malcolm Gladwell. “Ten-thousand hours makes you great. Twenty-thousand makes you a legend.”
Show: Saturday at noon at Broccoli City Festival, FedEx Field, 1600 FedEx Way, Landover. bcfestival.com. $99.50.