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As Cordae promoted From A Bird’s Eye View, a motif that repeated itself throughout his interviews and explanations for the newly released album was growth. In an interview with Billboard, he said, “I actually have to live life and go through some sh*t. Sometimes I have to go through tragedy, and I just transmute that through songs. Every song [on this album] has an exact memory and experience into creating it.”
The album’s title has been of particular note. Asked over and over again about its meaning, Cordae’s answer, that it means taking a step back and putting things into perspective, has shifted and evolved over the course of the month-long rollout as he molds and polishes it in real-time. It’s the same answer that he gave during a special preview stream weeks before the album was released, but more worn-in, like a baseball glove after catching a few hundred pitches.
So too is the familiar-sounding music on the album. In comparison to Cordae’s Grammy-nominated debut album The Lost Boy, these songs are similarly warm and nostalgic, but now they feel weathered and sometimes even a little world-weary. At 24, Cordae’s seen some more things, accomplished some more things, and yes, lost some more things, translating all of that into music that feels much more like himself. On The Lost Boy, he was new to stardom and the music industry, molding the album to represent this shaky footing. On From A Bird’s Eye View, he’s broken through to a new level of comfort, letting him do what he wants to do.
The most obvious difference between the two albums is the lack of jarring tonal shifts as he bids for radio play. Bird’s Eye eschews the commercial bids of “Have Mercy” and “Broke As F*ck” to allow Cordae to focus on the soulful, reminiscent songs he seemed to prefer even as he still bore the YBN moniker that represented allegiance to a stylistic concept he was apparently thinking beyond. The true gems of his debut included reflective ballads like “Thanksgiving” and “Family Matters”; on his latest, he retains those moods on “Momma’s Hood” and “C Carter.”
The latter finds him waxing nostalgic, recalling when “I used to dream about a new Hummer / Back when G.O.O.D. Music dropped Cruel Summer.” He uses this humble imagery to illustrate the difference in his current circumstances, both materially and spiritually. “I wrote this song in LA, I was driving my Benz,” he wonders. However, it hasn’t all been roses. On “Momma’s Hood” he questions, “Why they had to kill my n**** over a few little pounds?” referring to his childhood friend who was murdered just months before he had completed the new album. This was just after he returned from a trip to Africa – something he probably couldn’t have imagined as a teen growing up in Suitland, Maryland. One reality was closer than the other; he’s since experienced both, which has to be one hell of a head trip.
Another similarity between the two albums is the guest appearances. Cordae has a gift for attracting older, established artists with fascinating contrasts to his own style and outlook, but a similar passion for elevated rapping. Replacing standouts like Anderson .Paak, Chance The Rapper, and Pusha T are similarly impressive adherents to the bars-first philosophy that seems to drive Cordae himself: Eminem, Freddie Gibbs, and Lil Wayne all appear here, all seemingly pushed by their host to deliver scintillating verses. Even Em restrains himself, sounding serious, if not revitalized – at the very least, he doesn’t derail the track. This time around, Cordae also surrounds himself with generational contemporaries as well, employing Gunna, Lil Durk, and Roddy Ricch to varying effects. Roddy demonstrates the clearest chemistry with Cordae on “Gifted,” the single being relegated to bonus track status along with Eminem feature “Parables (Remix).”
While Cordae sticks largely to his strengths on this album, letting his guests offer up the variety that removing obvious playlist bids forgoes, it’d be nice to see him stepping out of his comfort zone a little more often. “Gifted” is the clearest standout alongside “Chronicles,” but his priority on showing off his rhyming led him to release “Super” and “Sinister” as singles instead. There’s nothing wrong with either, but neither shows off his star power as obviously as “Chronicles” or sticks emotionally like “C Carter.”
Likewise, as he gains experience, his reliance on bars referencing fellatio is something I would hope he phases out. They’re always jarring in the midst of his rhymes sharing hard-won wisdom or philosophizing on the nature of his come-up (and, not for nothing, they feel especially awkward when considering his relationship with superstar tennis player Naomi Osaka. The lines might not be about her specifically but it’s weird nonetheless. Woman’s a champion athlete and businesswoman who deserves a little more gentlemanly consideration, I say.). But From A Bird’s Eye View is exactly the sort of sophomore album you want from an artist like Cordae… in looking back at his experiences, he’s begun to realize the road map to a bright future.
From A Bird’s Eye View is out now via Atlantic. Stream it here.