Sometimes, the Destiny’s Child characteristics for their post-career get used to comparing the success of artists who branch out from a group. For the YBN Collective, talent and status ran through the blood of Cordae, whose debut in 2019 was a pleasant surprise amongst hip-hop debut albums. Simply put, it was a breath of fresh air that delivers quality flows, melodies, and lyricism, especially as he spared with heavyweights like Pusha T, thus making him the Beyonce of YBN. But despite the greatness of The Lost Boy, Cordae sees himself riding the coattails of the sophomore slump with From A Bird’s Eye View. It takes steps back, as Cordae fails to bring an emotional consistency to each song’s core, and a few times, his features fail to match the tone or falter altogether. It’s a detriment because From A Bird’s Eye View is a distinguished but loose concept album that keeps one eye closed; however, Cordae continues to remind us why he is a name to keep in a back pocket.
From A Bird’s Eye View is as straight as its words through a literal definition – the only difference is the parallels that Cordae brings to his speak in his verses, rapping his views on hip-hop, incarceration, and gang violence. It’s a time machine taking us back to his youth in Montgomery Village, Maryland, where we see him breaking down layers with masterful storytelling skills and boasting the inner Rembrandt as he shades his personality. Cordae’s reflections offer insight from his mind, which overwhelms him as he tries to adjunct to both sides of the spectrum. It becomes noticeable with some of his choruses, especially the delicious bait on the hook of track 3. “Super” offers up some modest sauce on the brilliant foray prep in the pan, but it doesn’t cook properly. So while Cordea takes down the path less traveled by establishing the ever-present sensibilities of his youth, he doesn’t hesitate to add the sauce with single-driven tracks.
Unfortunately, “Super” only boasts a great flow and decent production that takes basic cues from Trap Hip-Hop. It’s the energy that allows Cordae to make it feel more rounded. Parts of what hinders From A Bird’s Eye View is the level of ingenuity he brings to topics he explores, and in particular, “Today” and “Chronicles.” The two tracks drown in mediocrity as they barely fit the motifs: the former reflects on parallel lives from youth to present over a simple bounce-trap production. Top to bottom, “Today” doesn’t offer much to desire from a more single-driven track, like “Chronicles,” offering a great beat by Boi 1da, Vinlyz, Don Mills, and Audi, but Cordae doesn’t stand out. Like Cordae, Gunna, H.E.R, and Lil Durk fail to keep my attention flowing from start to finish on these tracks, unlike the others. It’s as if Cordae purposely cut corners on these non-cornerstone ones. It’s bewildering considering how fluid the solo ventures are, and the two times he tests himself versus heavyweights, Lil Wayne and Eminem, he holds his own.
Yet, what’s at the core of From A Bird’s Eye View is Cordae tenacity to keep a tangential tone as it deviates from its path with those few tracks I’ve mentioned in the previous paragraph. These other tracks have more focus, crisper production, and smooth connections in their transitions. It’s noticeably beautiful in the way the subsequent tracks come across. It isn’t unique, but it’s subtle because it functions like what a great hip-hop album should sound like – it has focused themes, originality, and an ear for complementary flows/rhythm to each track – it doesn’t include the single-driven tracks.
Back to the transitions – opening with “Shiloh’s Intro,” Cordae’s friend raps over the phone in prison about his life and the struggle; it reflects with anger on the following track, “Jean-Michel,” where Cordae airs out this bent up hostility with society, adding subtle layers to the systemic racism through various degrees. However, he uses that as a reflection for his new approach in making music – i.e. he delivers what’s in his heart, no matter the appeal. Cordae has never shied away from his past, and Shiloh was like his younger brother who came up rapping with him, only to eventually get convicted of a crime, now serving 25 years. Cordae’s energy on “Jean-Michel” feels like he is channeling Shiloh too. Beyond having a smooth and direct transition, the synergy between Cordae and Shiloh’s moods is remarkable. The way it’s constructed offers depth to Cordae’s lyricism. “C Carter” follows “Shiloh’s Interlude;” the latter is the recorded sound of the prison phone line that ends with Cordae’s Hello. Named after the film Coach Carter, “C Carter,” he gives us his perspective on life and his cognitive direction in life, paralleling the life Shiloh may have, unfortunately, found himself in. Cordae uses the song to tell us that his life may look better on paper (MVP mentality), but there is room for lessons; he isn’t perfect, and that is okay.
From A Bird’s Eye View doesn’t hold back, but it doesn’t take a step forward musically. Cordae shows improvement with maturity in his lyricism and flows. His future is as bright as ever, especially if he can make more hits like “Super” instead of mids, like “Today.” There is a lot of great things to love and reflect on in his album; I believe it would benefit it if they trim some edges. But as far as 2022 goes, Cordae adds to a good streak of music to have impressed me so far.