YBN Cordae's "The Lost Boy" Is an Instant Classic

The 2019 XXL Magazine Freshman Class honoree's debut album demonstrates why he deserves our respect.

If you've never heard of YBN Cordae before, that is bound to change in the days and years to come.

So long as he keeps making music with the same level of passion and skill that he demonstrated on his debut album, The Lost Boy, his name won't be forgotten. On every track of his record, the 21-year-old emcee approaches the mic with the confidence, command, and charisma of a veteran rapper. In fact, at times his flow is reminiscent of fellow North Carolina native (and collaborator on the album), J. Cole—an impressive feat given the fact that it took even Cole a couple of albums to truly find his voice, whereas Cordae seems to have already honed his prior to his first official release.

Of the 15 tracks on The Lost Boy, not a singe one of them is a throwaway. From the album's opener, "Wintertime"—a retrospective look at how Cordae overcame hardships like depression, addiction, and poverty—to the full-circle outro, "Lost & Found," where Cordae reflects briefly on how he was once lost but has since found himself. Cordae begins the album looking over his shoulder and ends it by living in the moment as he stands on the precipice of a very promising music career.

Other highlights along the way include the Anderson .Paak-assisted and J. Cole-produced, "RNP," which sees .Paak and Cordae exchange kid-n-play bars back and forth, conversing and pushing each other's rhymes further with each line. There's a certain alchemy between the two on this song that hasn't been heard since the heydays of Dr. Dre and Eminem, or Q-Tip and Phife Dawg on early Tribe records. It's as fun as it is enjoyable.

In fact, every one of the features on The Lost Boy is handled well. Cordae hasn't simply featured artists here for clout or merely for the sake of collaborating; every song that has a guest feels as if it truly called for the artist in question. Whether it's Pusha T going hard on the haunting "Nightmares Are Real," Ty Dolla $ign blending perfectly into the melodic, homecoming anthem, "Way Back Home," or Chance The Rapper lending some characteristic sunshine to the feel-good gospel chords of "Bad Idea," Cordae (and his collaborators) reminds listeners of the fact that a great artist works in service of the song before all else.

The Lost Boy is one of the most substantial debut albums to drop in quite some time. Front to back, this record is full of gems that are sure to stay in rotation for years to come. This is what an excellent rap album sounds like. And YBN Cordae is just getting started.

The Lost Boy


Big K.R.I.T. Transcends Time and Space on "K.R.I.T. Iz Here"

The Mississippi-born rapper and producer strikes a balance between his roots and the future of rap on his latest album.

Between the years of 1997 and 2007, southern rap was unavoidable.

In the wake of a bloodsoaked war for hip-hop dominance between East and West Coast rappers, Southern artists quietly rose to prominence. As tensions escalated, Tupac Shakur was gunned down in Las Vegas on September 7, 1996. He died from his wounds six days later. A little over a year afterwards, on a chilly March morning in 1997, The Notorious B.I.G. was murdered in Los Angeles, behind enemy lines. Following these back-to-back tragedies, many feared that the very foundation of hip-hop might crumble. In a 2014 interview for Music Times, Nas reflected on the culture's darkest age: "Those two things hit me real hard, because I knew both of them [...] what they meant to the art form can never be redone, can never be replaced [...] And when those two guys passed away I thought [it] was the end of rap."

Meanwhile, two little-known emcees in Atlanta were poised to change the game forever with their refreshingly fun and funky Southern sound. Not only did Outkast keep lit the torch of hip-hop in its hour of direst need, they also contributed greatly to redefining the genre's increasingly polarized sound—which, for the majority of the '90s, existed in two extremes: the gritty street griots of NYC and the G-Funk stylings of gangsta rap artists from South-Central LA. They offered something brand new by laying out the blueprint for another regional sound in hip-hop, that of the Dirty South. In the years to follow, radio waves were bombarded with new and unique artists like T.I., Ludacris, Lil Wayne, Master P, Trick Daddy, Three 6 Mafia, and Mystikal, as well as (more recently), J. Cole, Killer Mike, and Big K.R.I.T.

K.R.I.T., however, found his beginnings at the tail end of the Dirty South's commercial reign. His 2006 mixtape, Hood Fame, garnered him some well-deserved recognition, prompting some high-profile guest spots on albums like Curren$y's major label debut, Pilot Talk, as well as Wiz Khalifa's critically acclaimed mixtape, Kush & Orange Juice. From there, K.R.I.T. quickly rose through the ranks of rap as an emcee and producer, often praised for the ways in which he rapped like T.I. (raw, lyrical, and quintessentially Southern), yet his beats were reminiscent of the late Pimp C (heavily rooted in '70s funk grooves and trap drums).

Big K.R.I.T., unlike some of his Dirty South contemporaries, has been able to adapt and evolve in order to survive the modern hip-hop landscape, which is seemingly always in flux. And his latest album, K.R.I.T. Iz Here, is yet another testament to that rare propensity for longevity.

In terms of production, K.R.I.T. Iz Here is a far cry from his early work. There are certainly elements of that iconic Dirty South vibe thrown in throughout, particular on songs like "M.I.S.S.I.P.P.I.," a horn-driven ode to his roots (and succeeding despite great adversities), On this track, K.R.I.T. raps, "Daddy worked up on a train / Momma always had brains, she a teacher now / You knowin' how we get down / So stop with all them bullshit moves about where I come from…"

He raps about fighting his way out of poverty so he could help his parents and his community find reprieve from struggle, demonstrating all the while a wealth of lyrical growth since the days of Hood Fame, skillfully bobbing and weaving through rhymes with the grace and patience of a veteran boxer. "Proud parents, black parents, my parents," he rhymes, "They standin' on the same steps that they supposed to / In the same place that they supposed to / And I'ma keep raisin' 'em higher and higher / And the biggest house I can find, I'ma buy it and buy / I'ma keep tryin' and tryin' to make 'em proud and all."

Other standout moments on K.R.I.T. Iz Here, though, see the rapper and producer solidifying a new voice—one for which he began laying down the foundation with 2017's critically acclaimed, 4eva is a Mighty Long Time. On much of …Iz Here, K.R.I.T. has traded in that signature Dirty South sound for beats that could be characterized as echoing that classic late '90s/early aughts East Coast aesthetic. Songs like "K.R.I.T. Here," "Make it Easy," and "Everytime," for example, rely heavily on smooth and flourishing soul samples—which make for unexpected and interesting backdrops to K.R.I.T.'s Mississippian, drawling flow.

There is a third ingredient, too, in this eclectic mix of hip-hop's multifarious and ever-shifting sounds. Songs with a more contemporary trap feel are darkly synth-laden and pummeled with speaker-shaking 808s; bangers like "I Made It" (featuring Yella Beezy), "Believe," "Prove It" (featuring J. Cole), and "Addiction" (featuring Lil Wayne and Saweetie) all showcase K.R.I.T.'s ability and eagerness to put his own spin on not only where rap has been, but also where rap appears to be headed.

Like Outkast did before him, Big K.R.I.T. is bridging a chasm in rap—again at a time where the culture is fractured and segmented, albeit to a much lesser degree. At a point in hip-hop history when the Dirty South has all but faded from the conversation, Big K.R.I.T. is here to keep it from disappearing, to open the doors for the Southern emcees and producers of tomorrow to bring their roots into whatever new terrains hip-hop traverses in the years to come.



Logic Bucks Critics on "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind"

The 29-year-old emcee trolls his haters on refreshing new album

Logic is done with hate and negativity.

On the title track of his latest release, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, he raps, "That's why I keep flowin', that's why I keep perserverin' / Even when I'm hearing I'm a bitch, I'm a fag / I'm a motherfuckin' hypebeast, I ain't black in the slight least / I ain't good enough, I should quit, I should kill myself / ''Cause you'll never be Kenny' / 'You'll never be better than Drizzy or Cole' / 'You're losing your hair, you're too fucking old' / These are the comments I'm readin' on Twitter right now / That made me depressed and they pullin' me down / I'm trying to swim but I think I'm'a drown / So I'm'a turn my feelin' into a sound / And play it when nobody else is around."

This opening track sets the tone for the scathingly honest, self-aware, introspective, and devil-may-care attitude that Logic adopts throughout the rest of the project. On Confessions, his sixth studio album, we see a different side of Logic – one that has been notably missing from his more recent releases, and one that often leads to good music (especially in hip hop) – and that is the side that doesn't care what you think. This sentiment manifests itself not only in the album's lyrical content but in how much fun Logic appears to be having on some of these songs.

He's assembled a motley crew of features, too, with no regard to how pigeonholing rap elitists may perceive them. In addition to the Eminem feature on the chart-topping "Homicide," there are also special guest verses from Gucci Mane, YBN Cordae, G-Eazy, Wiz Khalifa, and none other than Will Smith. If nothing else, this features list feels a little antagonistic, as if Logic might be trolling us a little bit. Or, more accurately, Logic seems to be trolling the armchair hip hop critics who will, no doubt, find plenty to complain about when they hear Will Smith rapping with his characteristically buttery old-school flow in 2019; when they find out that the emcee who controversially dubbed himself Bobby Biracial has chosen to feature the other two biggest white rappers in the game on his album; and when they hear Logic dabbling in trap with Gucci Mane on the funky ode to ballin', "Icy." His goal on Confessions may be best summed up by a line in the second half of "Mama / Show Love:" "I'm pushin' 30, my man, it's time to have fun."

In addition to addressing his haters and focusing on doing things his way despite all the criticism, Logic weaves a couple other tangible through lines into this album. On songs like "Wannabe," "Mama / Show Love," "Lost in Translation," and "BOBBY," he goes in on the trappings, difficulties, and stresses that come with fame. On songs like "Pardon my Ego," "Icy," "COMMANDO," and "Still Ballin'," he flaunts his material success. And on "Clickbait," "Cocaine," and "Homicide," Logic flexes his muscle as a cultural critic, satirizing the current state of hip hop, as well as touching on addiction (both to drugs and social media).

Although these themes are all clearly present on Confessions..., together they make the album feel a little bit scattered – as if there was a definite attempt to create a thematically cohesive project, but it never quite came together in the end. The individual songs never really coalesce to become something greater than the sum of their parts in the end. Which is perfectly fine; a great album certainly does not need to be thematically cohesive; however, you get the sense that a concerted effort was put forth to produce an album that was, and so it registers as falling slightly short of what this album seems like it wants to be.

That being said, there are definitely some great cuts on this record. The production – provided primarily by longtime Logic collaborator and executive producer, 6ix, along with !llMind, DJ Khalil, Keanu Beats, Shroom, Bregma, Haze, and others – is on point from the first track to the 16th, with little to no filler. We probably could have done without Will Smith's paternal lecture on "Don't Be Afraid to be Different" (although it was still kind of fun to hear him rap again), and there are definitely a couple of tracks that are more forgettable than others.

Even so, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind is firmly rooted in hip-hop (which fans will likely find refreshing after Logic's brief foray into alt-rock and pop for his last album / the soundtrack to his book, Supermarket). And, at the end of the day, even though the emcee is taking a relatively carefree approach to his music, both in terms of the subjects he's tackling and with whom he's collaborating, he is still carefully crafting his songs, bar by bar, and it shows – in the amount of thought put into his lyrics, and the exacting precision of his flows.

Dustin DiPaulo is a writer and musician from Rochester, New York. He received his MFA in Creative Writing from Florida Atlantic University and can most likely be found at a local concert, dive bar, or comedy club (if he's not getting lost somewhere in the woods).

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Joyner Lucas Endures a Crisis of Faith in "Devil's Work" Video

Joyner confronts God for taking the good and empowering the bad in his striking new video.

Joyner Lucas soared to fame, seemingly overnight, when his chilling video for "I'm Not Racist" went viral and earned him a Grammy nomination.

But in reality Joyner has been hard at work since his days in the underground hip hop group Film Skool Rejekts, back in the mid-aughts. He had four studio albums under his belt before "I'm Not Racist" started garnering some well-deserved mainstream recognition. Oh, and an Eminem co-sign in an interview conducted by Elton John certainly didn't hurt his career either.

However, Joyner has more than earned all of the attention he's received over the last few years. He's cultivated a reputation for delivering hard-hitting, introspective, and honest bars without sacrificing anything in the way of technical skill on the mic. And in the second single off of his forthcoming album, ADHD, Joyner continues to innovate and impress.

The video for "Devil's Work" features Joyner alone in a church, accompanied only by a half-empty bottle of Hennessy, a statue of Jesus on the cross, and a serious crisis of faith. He challenges God, airing his grievances directly in a way that almost feels like he's serving up a sincere and emotionally wrought diss track to the lord, calling him out for making some questionable and unjust decisions—especially regarding which souls get taken early and which are granted positions of power. "Give us back 2Pac," he pleads, "and take that _____ Suge [...] Give us Biggie, give us Pun, give us triple X / Take that _____ Trump with you, that's a bigger threat [...] I need you to give us back Martin Luther, take Martin Shkreli / Give us back Malcolm, take R. Kelly." Joyner goes on to pay respects to a few other people who were taken too soon: Michael Jackson, Nipsey Hussle, Selina, Aaliyah, Trayvon Martin, and Emmett Till to name a few.

As one might expect given its political statements,"Devil's Work" has been met with some mixed reactions. Love it or hate it, Joyner has managed to capture a common (if under-discussed) aspect of the human experience: those long nights where we get drunk with doubt and overwhelmed by the sprawling list of senseless injustices in the world. He does so with a certain blend of honesty; raw, emotional candor; and lyrical prowess that only Joyner Lucas could deliver.

Dustin DiPaulo is a writer and musician from Rochester, New York. He received his MFA in Creative Writing from Florida Atlantic University and can most likely be found at a local concert, dive bar, or comedy club (if he's not getting lost somewhere in the woods).

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Logic and Eminem Just Released the Song of the Year: "Homicide"

The two emcees invite us to revel in lyrical slaughter with them

There are some artists who get hit with anticipatory hate and blind criticism well before their upcoming projects even drop.

Rappers Logic and Eminem are both very familiar with this. Logic, for one, has been branded by the Twittersphere and Redditopia as corny and predictable. And public assertions of his biracial identity have also been ill-received by many, at least in various comments sections and subreddits, where shade-throwing seems to have become a national sport.

Does Eminem's familiarity with knee-jerk criticism even need to be addressed? Slim Shady is definitely no stranger to shade, though some of the scandals surrounding the rapper have been more warranted than others over the course of his 25-year career. Some of the lyrics of his earlier work, for example, were famously rallied against by LGBTQ advocacy groups such as GLAAD. But more recently, the majority criticism has been directed at the quality of his music rather than the controversy of his lyrics.

On "Homicide," though, the two emcees everyone loves to hate team up for an impressive spectacle of murderous flows. Over a beat made of pure fire (produced by Bregma) Logic leads the lyrical onslaught with a hook, which is really more of an occasionally reprised verse than a catchy chorus, spitting, "Fuck rap / Bustin' like an addict with a semi-automatic / who done had it, and he ready for anyone to buck back / Hold up, catch a vibe, ain't no way in hell we leavin' nobody alive / Leave a suicide note? Fuck that." Logic, throughout the course of his following two verses manages to confidently rap on Eminem's level—a feat few emcees could perform.

On the third verse, Eminem reminds the world why he's often listed as one of the best to ever pick up a mic. It's the quick-witted wordplay and intricate, multi-syllabic rhyme schemes he weaves into rapid-fire bars like, "Beast mode, motherfuckers 'bout to get hit / With so many foul lines, you think I'm a free throw / Figured it was about time for people to eat crow / You about to get out-rhymed, how could I be dethroned? / I stay on my toes [tows] like the repo, a behemoth in sheep clothes / From the East Coast to the West, I'm the ethos and I'm the G.O.A.T / Who the best, I don't gotta say a fuckin' thing, though / 'Cause MCs know."

This is the first track that Eminem and Logic have teamed up for and it was a definite success. The outsider status that both rappers have enjoyed throughout their careers, in hindsight, makes you wonder why this collab didn't happen sooner.

"Homicide" is the third single from Logic's forthcoming album, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind.


Dustin DiPaulo is a writer and musician from Rochester, New York. He received his MFA in Creative Writing from Florida Atlantic University and can most likely be found at a local concert, dive bar, or comedy club (if he's not getting lost somewhere in the woods).

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ScHoolboy Q Finds New Dimensions on CrasH Talk

The Top Dawg Entertainment emcee is back with a unique blend of bangers, gangsta rap, and introspection.

ScHoolboy - CrasH


Since the release of his first mixtape, ScHoolboy Turned Hustla, ScHoolboy Q has been aiming to break the mold of the typical rapper.

Hailing from South Central Los Angeles, Q's style is not easily defined, and he doesn't sound at all like you might expect an LA emcee to sound. Q has managed to sidestep all of the tropes of West Coast rap by carving out a diverse repertoire of unique flows and cadences; selecting beats that are imaginative, energized, and often atmospheric; and frequently switching up subject matter from one song to the next. In fact, Q lists primarily East Coast rappers as his major influences. While certain West Coast legends like Kurupt and 2Pac have no doubt been pivotal for Q, the 32-year-old rapper cites New York's hip-hop elite—Jay-Z, 50 Cent, Biggie, and Nas—as having the largest influence on him. This mixture of unexpected influences is probably one of the reasons there isn't anyone else out there who sounds like Q. He's got LA in his veins and a New York State of mind. The result is a distinctively fresh style.

On his latest release, CrasH Talk, his fifth studio album and the follow-up to 2016's critically acclaimed Blank Face LP, Q continues to hone his signature sound. Released on April 26th, CrasH Talk sees Q continue to showcase his ability to command just about any beat, find new flows, and take on a breadth of topics and moods that few rappers manage to cover in a single album. This is what fans love about Q: he keeps you on your toes.

You get a different version of the emcee on every track: sometimes you'll get gangsta Q, as you do on the album's explosive opener, "Gang Gang," in which listeners are offered a quick glimpse into Q's younger days as a Hoover Street Crip: "Long cash, dope sales, ayy / AK's, head wraps, ayy / Beat case, did that, yeah / Third Benz, still black." Other times, you'll hear Q wax braggadocious, as he does on the banger "5200," with bars like "Dare one try, who frontin' on me? / Ain't no smut, no chatter on me / Money on me, hundred on me / Both got rocks, look better on me / Spaceship parked, no landin' on me / Wrecked my Lam', don't need it on E." Also, for all of you Easter egg hunters out there, if you listen closely to the intro of "5200," you might hear a familiar voice—longtime Q collaborator, Top Dawg Entertainment label mate, and the only rapper thus far to win a Pulitzer Prize—Kendrick Lamar can be heard helping Q hype up the track, even though he isn't listed as a feature on it.

Rhymes about gang life and being dope, though, are not the only versions of himself that Q presents on CrasH Talk.

You'll hear a couple radio-friendly chart-aimers on here as well. Songs like "Lies," featuring Ty Dolla $ign & YG, "CHopstix," with Travis Scott, and the LP's lead single, "Numb Numb Juice," would all feel right at home in rotation on top 40 radio stations. But these are probably the most forgettable moments on the album. "Lies," for one, is little more than a watered-down pop tune about dishonesty—Q shadowboxes on the first verse, rhyming about how real he is compared to some composite faker, while YG spits about a lying woman.

CrasH Talk also showcases a side of ScHoolboy Q that fans may be relatively unfamiliar with. Songs like "Tales," "Black Folk," "Dangerous" (featuring Kid Cudi), "CrasH," and the album's closing track, "Attention," all see Q more introspective and self-aware than on previous releases. On "CrasH," for example, Q spits lucid bars over a Boi-1da beat that samples Royce Da 5'9's classic "Boom." Addressing his daughter, Q spits, "Way too blessed to be normal / Upper echelon, but we stand that / So, girl, be proud that your skin black / And be happy, girl, that your hair napped / 'Cause the school system won't teach that / Where your father been, you gon' reach that." These are the real standout moments on CrasH Talk.

Q is at his best, it seems, when he focuses more on his pen game than on crafting an interesting flow or hyping up a hardcore vibe. He rivals his NYC heroes when he rhymes from the heart—serving up thoughtful bars and riding the beats with ease— he really opens up on these tracks, giving us songs that are honest, powerful, and that could only have been written by him.

CrasH Talk has a its ups and downs, no doubt, but it really seems to come into its own about halfway through (from "5200" to the end). Overall, it is a comprehensive rap album, with a little something for everyone, from the hardcore hip-hop purist to the casual top 40 listener. Fans can expect to hear every version of ScHoolboy Q that they already know and love, as well as become acquainted with a more mature and nuanced emcee who is clearly not afraid to grow and evolve as an artist.

CrasH Talk

Dustin DiPaulo is a writer and musician from Rochester, New York. He received his MFA in Creative Writing from Florida Atlantic University and can most likely be found at a local concert, dive bar, or comedy club (if he's not getting lost somewhere in the woods).

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