YBN’s Cordae & Almighty Jay Interview: Talk Crafting’YBN: The Mixtape,’ & Mac Miller’s Passing
YBN is hip-hop’s newest fast-rising neophyte collective that is looking to follow in the footsteps of several legendary rap crews who’ve shifted the genre landscape before them. “Young Boss N–s” is fronted by the contrasting styles of Nahmir, Almighty Jay and the recent inclusion of famous Maryland-bred rapper Cordae, who joined the group last year.
Another step in cementing their ascension came with the release of YBN: The Mixtape earlier this month (Sept. 7), a melting pot job that sees all those YBN stars stepping up to showcase their distinctive ability through a variety of previously published bangers weaved between new tunes to make up the 23-track work.
“I fuck with the fact that everyone in A$AP Mob does something different. That’s sort of us. In YBN Cordae Type Beat 2019, we all have our own lanes,” the 21-year-old Cordae tells Billboard. “We’re not always a group. We’re more of a collective — it’s like a motion. It’s like a brotherhood outside music and everything has been natural.”
Pay attention to the rest of our conversation with YBN’s Almighty Jay and Cordae as the talented duo dishes onto a great number of subjects, including crafting their debut mixtape, MGK’s feud with Eminem, the reduction of Mac Miller, what is in store for its future, plus much more.
YBN Nahmir wasn’t present for this particular interview due to illness.
Billboard: What is the creative process such as when putting the mixtape together?
Almighty Jay: We did not plan it out like,”Oh, we are going to use this to the tape.” We just went into the studio and made audio. Most of them we figured to just put them on there because we haven’t dropped a lot of music recently. Basically, we simply made a great deal of music like that and kept piling it up. We listened to all the songs and then determined what we actually wanted to be on there.
YBN Cordae: The mixtape was pretty much finished before I came around. I just added in certain tunes that I felt filled in the missing pieces of the project. “Goal” was one of those songs with another sound. I wanted to complement them as well. The intro has Jay and Nahmir storytelling so I came in with the storytelling as well. I didn’t want to go overboard.
Cordae, you comprehensive a chilling encounter with police on”Target.” Why did you want to talk about this?
YBN Cordae: Because it’s based on a true story. I had been in college and driving but I did not understand my license has been suspended. It was homecoming weekend so I had five of my homies in the car. I only wanted to put that into song kind and felt that was the best way to express how I felt. It made me realize so many encounters are like this.
I ended up not getting booked. He realized we were going to college and a lot of 18-year-olds. I needed to go to court for it and it was a huge inconvenience because I had three different court dates. It was dreadful.
Did you guys have a hard time working with each other and deciding what finally made the tape?
Almighty Jay: Yeah, I guess they say I am difficult to manage. They’re always trying to tell me what I want to be shifting with my songs and I just tell them,”Nah.” I’ll change it occasionally but it comes from fire. I really don’t write nothing. Everything is a freestyle. I really don’t enjoy writing songs.
YBN Cordae: That is his lifestyle, just wing it. Nearly all my shit is composed. I will freestyle the flows or first four bars to get a hook and then I kind of get my inspiration from this. I freestyled the hook to”Target.” I got into cadence and after that it sparked the thought. I’ll freestyle the flows because that comes naturally but I just plug in the phrases and write.
Walk me through how”Alaska” came together, Cordae.
YBN Cordae: That was originally a throwaway track. It fit quite nicely on the mixtape. I shot the video with Cole Bennett. He hit me up the day of and was like,”I got a free day, do you wish to take a video?” I rocked with him to knock it out with that double-time flow. Mike Dean produced it. Him and a 14-year-old called Maddox, who’s his protege. I went to his house in Los Angeles and he cooked it up. I freestyled the entire song outside the second verse.
What did you both think of Machine Gun Kelly’s”Rap Devil” diss track firing back at Eminem?
YBN Cordae: If he fell that I was like,”You’re fucking insane bro.” But if you feel like that’s what you have to do, then do it. Always go with your intuition. The diss is hard. I think that it was flame. This is a great thing for Machine Gun Kelly. I’d be happy as shit when Eminem dissed me. He made a lot of good points on there. This is what Eminem does with beef. I want to hear what he has to say. I really don’t think he was expecting an answer. You gotta be crazy to want beef with Eminem and MGK is that.
Almighty Jay: I listened to”Rap Devil” and liked it. I haven’t listened to his music actually but that he knows how to rap his ass off.
Did any collectives already in hip-hop inspire you guys to come together?
YBN Cordae: Pro Era and Oddfuture were enormous. A$AP Mob a little too. I fuck with the fact that everyone in A$AP Mob does something different. That’s sort of us. In YBN, we all have our own lanes. A$AP Rocky is a fashion icon, [A$AP Ferg] kills the rapping, Yams was the mastermind behind the whole thing. With Oddfuture, simply to find out what [Tyler, the Creator] is doing, [Frank Ocean] is doing, what Earl was doing. That is what we’re trying to create.
You took shots at sneakers designed by Ian Connor through a recent episode of Sneaker Shopping, even speaking to them as a”small rapey.” Can you feel that’s the right setting for all those remarks?
YBN Cordae: In the end of the day, I stated what I said. Looking back today, I would not have stated that on camera. The final thing I need to do with my stage is celebration another young black man who’s getting cash. I have no any problems with Lil Yachty or Ian Connor.
What did you consider the response to your”Old N–” track? Did you ever end up speaking with J. Cole?
YBN Cordae: He rocked with it and said,”It was fire.” J. Cole is a bridge-gapper. The”Fuck J. Cole” movement was lame. He embraced it.
How was locking in the studio with Dr. Dre?
YBN Cordae: It was fire. It was in his home for 20 hours straight. I love working with him because it’s like going through basketball drills. I felt myself becoming better by the hour. [Dr. Dre’s] working with me on this solo project. That’s a mentor . He had his Grammy plaques and I’ve never seen one in person before which was motivational.
What’s up with the younger generation abusing their plaques? I saw Lil Xan piss on his own.
YBN Cordae: I sort of get where Xan was going with that — fuck these materialistic things in life. It doesn’t mean anything or piss to himliterally.
Do you have a tough time moving beyond the relationship drama with Blac Chyna and turning people’s attention toward your own music?
Almighty Jay: I only keep dropping my songs. I was never really worried about it. I’m an artist at the end of the afternoon, not a soap opera[celebrity ]. I am just gonna keep putting the
in their face.
Were you Mac Miller fans rising up?
YBN Cordae: I was a huge fan of Mac Miller. You know the best way to listen to music and you reminisce about where you were when you first heard it? I just had that a month ago with Mac when I was listening to Blue Slide Park, K.I.D.S, and Macadelic. I had been a big Mac Miller fan. He was straight ill. Even going back to his old mixtapes like The High Life. He has been in the game since a youngin, that’s how large his stamp is. He grew as an artist and truly evolved each record on several funkadelic shit.
What are some of your favorite albums that inspired you out of this season?
YBN Cordae: Not even because they’re dead, [XXXTentacion’s?] Album was crazy. That was pure artistry. Mac Miller’s Swimming too. Cole Bennett pressed me to listen to it a couple weeks ago. That was fucking insane. J. Cole’s KOD as well. I like Teyana Taylor’s K.T.S.E. album the best from all the G.O.O.D. Music releases.
Almighty Jay: Culture II for me. I enjoy lifestyle music, I don’t get into all that lyrical shit. That is just the way I am. I really don’t go back to listen to the old shit but I love to listen to what is presently going on.
Whose side are you taking for this Nicki Minaj versus Cardi B feud?
YBN Cordae: It is on sight for them. They’re more gangster than some of these rappers. Don’t sleep on Cardi B’s Invasion of Privacy. “Barbie Dreams” was fire as well. That was some real hip-hop shit. I enjoy concept songs like this.
What’s next for the two of you musically?
Almighty Jay: I’m working on my solo album right now.
YBN Cordae: I am working on a solo project that’s coming real soon as well. We are not necessarily a group. We’re more of a collective — it is like a motion. It is like a brotherhood outside of music and everything has been organic.
Is there anything planned for the rest of 2018?
YBN Cordae: I’m probably going to drop a few of videos. Probably a project towards the end of this year or beginning of next year. I have so much music. I’m just hoping to make a classic job.
Almighty Jay: We are going on tour beginning in Europe soon.
YBN Cordae: I just need that”Young Boss N–in Paris” caption on the market. Before we do, I want to sightsee in every city we visit. That is informative. I’m gonna write about some cool shit now.
Almighty Jay: I’m attempting for the Wu-Tang Clan to come out for us. Trying to get my man Method Man to open me up.
YBN Cordae: I don’t co-sign any of this.