Striving for longevity, rapper Cordae is ‘a work in progress’

Credit: Rebecca Cabage/Invision/AP

Credit: Rebecca Cabage/Invision/AP

The introspective North Carolina-born artist plays Atlanta’s Masquerade Feb. 8

March 2020 started off difficult for Cordae. He had to adjust to not being able to tour or experience life when the coronavirus pandemic caused a global shutdown. The viral sensation-turned-introspective rapper refused to feel deprived, so he channeled that energy into perfecting his craft and exploring other creative and community interests.

The North Carolina-born, Maryland-raised mononym with dyed blond twists dropped his second full-length studio album, “From a Bird’s Eye View.” The collection is a poignant, 12-track ringside seat to various episodes of his life that took a toll on him.

The self-reflective 24-year-old storyteller uses visceral observations and lyrically portrays various characters to explore themes like survivor’s guilt following his best friend’s murder last summer (“Momma’s Hood”), romantic relationships (“Want From Me”), and building his confidence to pursue his dreams (“C Carter”). Cordae’s wordplay is deeply inspired by reading James Baldwin’s “The Fire Next Time” and Huey Newton’s “Revolutionary Suicide” during quarantine.

“It’s not what those authors wrote in their books that directly influenced the music,” said Cordae, who got his start as a teenager performing under the stage name Entendre. “It’s just how well-written these compositions were. Reading physical literature helped me get my pen game up because of how they used words. It’s all art.”

Born Cordae Amari Dunston, the “Bad Idea” and “RNP” performer formerly known as YBN Cordae recorded the bulk of “From a Bird’s Eye View” at his home studio in Los Angeles that he designed to resemble Electric Lady Studios in New York to “save some bread and be in my comfort zone.” Cordae’s sophomore LP features guest appearances from Lil Wayne, Taraji P. Henson, Freddie Gibbs, Eminem, Roddy Ricch, H.E.R., Lil Durk, and Stevie Wonder.

One of “From a Bird’s Eye View’s” signature cuts, “Today,” features Atlanta rapper Gunna. Cordae met the “DS4Ever” rapper on tour in Australia ahead of the pandemic in early 2020. The two-time Grammy nominee appreciates how the opulent chart topper “paints luxury so beautifully, vividly and on a high level.”

“Gunna is one of the most talented, dopest, genuine, and creative artists that’s out there,” Cordae, who dropped the YBN prefix in 2020, said with a slight crescendo. “He paints pictures with his music, has an innate talent for that, and has a great voice as well. He deserves all of the blessings he’s getting right now.”

Credit: Amy Harris/Invision/AP

Credit: Amy Harris/Invision/AP

Cordae is bringing his 28-city “From a Bird’s Eye View” tour with a full live band to The Masquerade’s Heaven stage on Feb. 8. It’s his first performance in Atlanta since playing Center Stage as part of his last tour for his major label debut, 2019′s “The Lost Boy,” in February 2020. A perfectionist, Cordae doesn’t see a difference between playing live and recording albums.

“You make music to perform it,” he said. “The live band with me brings a different vibe, and performing is where you really feel if the music is connecting or not. I can’t wait to perform out there.”

“I love Atlanta,” said Cordae, who’s been dating tennis star Naomi Osaka for two years. “I’m honestly thinking about moving out there just because it’s the Black Mecca of the world truthfully. I have the best of times out there.”

Ahead of releasing “From a Bird’s Eye View,” Cordae, who once studied mass communications at Towson University, hosted album preview pop-ups in fall 2021 on college campuses, including at Howard and Norfolk State University. He aspires to graduate from either Harvard or an HBCU with a Ph.D. to “be like W.E.B. DuBois.”

“I just wanted to be a light, shed information, and whatever knowledge I may have,” said Cordae, who marched and protested in support of Black Lives Matter. “I wanted to get a real ear from real people and see what they thought. You can play the album for the label and other artists but nothing is more pure and unfiltered than the true fan. What controls and really dictates the cultures of music and life is the Black college student, and I wanted to get that.”

Last summer, Cordae funded and started his own independent, full service record label, Hi-Level, in addition to his major label deal with Atlantic Records. He spent a few weeks taking an eye-opening trip to Africa and adopted a new wellness regimen. Cordae lost 35 lbs. from eating healthier and working out frequently.

“It was calling my spirit, so I had to act upon it,” Cordae said. “It’s about opening a lane and a pathway for all creatives in different facets while protecting the mind, body, and soul.”

“When you look good, you feel good,” Cordae said. “When you feel good, you do good. When you do good, they pay good.”

Credit: Rebecca Cabage/Invision/AP

Credit: Rebecca Cabage/Invision/AP

Despite his music, entrepreneurial, and community involvement, Cordae doesn’t consider himself an activist. He considers himself “a work in progress” who hopes to have longevity in music, the drive to continue creating opportunities for others, and lend his voice to causes he cares about.

“In order to call yourself that, you gotta be dedicated to that cause every single minute,” Cordae said. “People use that word activist so loosely, but I just have a platform. I always gotta speak on what I feel is or isn’t right with what’s going on in the world. It’s the foundation of all artistry, and it’s our duty.”

“I try to see the silver lining in every situation, even the dullest moments or things aren’t going as planned,” Cordae adds. “This was a time where I could sit down, think, plot, plan, and execute what I want, but I just want to live life and create music about the experiences that I’m living.”



Doors open at 7 p.m. Feb. 8. $30 in advance. The Masquerade, 75 Martin Luther King Jr Drive SW, Atlanta. 404-577-8178,