Latin Music Week

YBN's Cordae & Almighty Jay Talk Crafting 'YBN: The Mixtape,' Working With Dr. Dre & Mac Miller's Passing

Cheryl Fox
YBN

YBN is hip-hop's latest fast-rising neophyte collective that's looking to follow in the footsteps of several legendary rap crews who've shifted the genre's landscape before them. "Young Boss N----s" is fronted by the contrasting personalities of Nahmir, Almighty Jay and the recent addition of burgeoning Maryland-bred rapper Cordae, who joined the squad last year.

Another step in cementing their ascension came with the release of YBN: The Mixtape earlier this month (Sept. 7), a melting pot project that sees each of the YBN stars stepping up to showcase their unique ability through a range of previously released bangers weaved between fresh tunes to make up the 23-track effort. 

"I fuck with the fact that everyone in A$AP Mob does something different. That's kind of like us. In YBN, we all have our own lanes," the 21-year-old Cordae tells Billboard. "We're not necessarily a group. We're more of a collective -- it's like a movement. It's like a brotherhood outside of music and everything has been organic."

Check out the rest of our conversation with YBN's Almighty Jay and Cordae as the talented duo dishes on a multitude of topics, including crafting their debut mixtape, MGK's feud with Eminem, the loss of Mac Miller, what's in store for the future, and much more. 

YBN Nahmir was not present for this interview due to illness. 

Billboard: What was the creative process like when putting the mixtape together?

Almighty Jay: We didn't plan it out like, "Oh, we're going to use this for the tape." We just went to the studio and made music. Most of them we figured to just put them on there because we haven't dropped a lot of music recently. Basically, we just made a lot of music that way and kept piling it up. We listened to all the music and then decided what we really wanted to be on there. 

YBN Cordae: The mixtape was pretty much finished before I came around. I just added in some songs that I felt filled in the missing pieces of the project. "Target" was one of those songs with a different 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 detailed a scary encounter with police on "Target." Why did you want to talk about that here?

YBN Cordae: Because it's based on a true story. I was in college and driving but I didn't know my license was suspended. It was homecoming weekend so I had five of my homies in the car. I just wanted to put that into song form and felt that was the best way to express how I felt. It made me realize so many encounters are like that. 

I ended up not getting booked. He realized we were going to college and a bunch of 18-year-olds. I had to go to court for it and it was a huge inconvenience because I had three different court dates. It was terrible. 

Did you guys have a hard time working with each other and deciding what ultimately made the tape?

Almighty Jay: Yeah, I guess they say I'm hard to deal with. They're always trying to tell me what I need to be changing with my music and I just tell them, "Nah." I'll change it sometimes but it still comes out fire. I don't write nothing. Everything is a freestyle. I don't like writing music. 

YBN Cordae: That's his lifestyle, just wing it. The majority of my shit is written. I'll freestyle the flows or first four bars for a hook and then I kind of get my inspiration from that. I freestyled the hook to "Target." I got into cadence and then it sparked the idea. I'll freestyle the flows because that comes naturally but I just plug in the words and write.

Walk me through how "Alaska" came together, Cordae. 

YBN Cordae: That was originally a throwaway track. It fit really well 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 want to shoot 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 named Maddox, who is his protege. I went to his house in Los Angeles and he cooked it up. I freestyled the entire song outside of the second verse.

What did you both think of Machine Gun Kelly's "Rap Devil" diss track firing back at Eminem?

YBN Cordae: When he dropped that I was like, "You're fucking insane bro." But if you feel like that's what you got to do, then do it. Always go with your intuition. The diss is hard. I think it was fire. This is a great thing for Machine Gun Kelly. I'd be happy as shit if 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's got to say. I 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 really but 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 huge. A$AP Mob a little too. I fuck with the fact that everyone in A$AP Mob does something different. That's kind of like 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, just to see what [Tyler, the Creator] is doing, [Frank Ocean] is doing, what Earl was doing. That's what we're trying to create. 

You took shots at sneakers designed by Ian Connor during a recent episode of Sneaker Shopping, even referring to them as a "little rapey." Did you feel that's the right setting for those comments?

YBN Cordae: At the end of the day, I said what I said. Looking back now, I wouldn't have said that on camera. The last thing I want to do with my platform is bash another young black man who is getting money. I don't have any problems with Lil Yachty or Ian Connor. 

What did you think about the response to your "Old N----s" 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 at his house for 20 hours straight. I love working with him because it's like going through basketball drills. I felt myself getting better by the hour. [Dr. Dre's] working with me on this solo project. That's a mentor of mine. He had all his Grammy plaques and I've never seen one in person before which was motivational. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Spent my birthday in the stu for 16 hours straight Cookin w @drdre History..... ----

A post shared by Cordae' (@ybncordae) on

What's up with the younger generation abusing their plaques? I saw Lil Xan piss on his. 

YBN Cordae: I kind of get where Xan was going with that -- fuck these materialistic things in life. It doesn't mean anything or piss to him, literally. 

Do you have a tough time moving past the relationship drama with Blac Chyna and turning people's attention toward your music?

Almighty Jay: I just keep dropping my music. I was never really worried about it. I'm an artist at the end of the day, not a soap opera[star]. I'm just gonna keep putting the [music] in their face. 

Were either of you Mac Miller fans growing up?

YBN Cordae: Yeah, I was a huge fan of Mac Miller. You know how you listen to songs 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 was a huge Mac Miller fan. He was straight ill. Even going back to his old mixtapes like The High Life. He's been in the game since a youngin, that's how big his stamp is. He grew as an artist and truly evolved every album on some funkadelic shit. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

RIP TO THE LEGEND @macmiller K.I.D.S FOREVER ------

A post shared by Cordae' (@ybncordae) on

What are some of your favorite albums that inspired you from this year?

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 hear it a few weeks ago. That was fucking insane. J. Cole's KOD as well. I like Teyana Taylor'K.T.S.E. album the best out of all the G.O.O.D. Music releases. 

Almighty Jay: Culture II for me. I like lifestyle music, I don't get into all that lyrical shit. That's just how I am. I don't go back to listen to the old shit but I like to listen to what's currently going on. 

Whose side are you taking for this Nicki Minaj versus Cardi B feud?

YBN Cordae: It's on sight for them. They be 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 like concept songs like that. 

What's next for the two of you musically?

Almighty Jay: I'm working on my solo album right now. 

YBN Cordae: I'm working on a solo project that's coming real soon as well. We're not necessarily a group. We're more of a collective -- it's like a movement. It's 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 couple videos. Probably a project towards the end of this year or beginning of next year. I got so much music. I'm just trying to make a classic project. 

Almighty Jay: We're going on tour starting in Europe soon. 

YBN Cordae: I just need that "Young Boss N----s in Paris" caption out there. Before we perform, I want to sightsee in every city we go to. That's educational. I'm gonna write about some cool shit now.

Almighty Jay: I'm trying to get the Wu-Tang Clan to come out for us. Trying to get my man Method Man to open up for me. 

YBN Cordae: I don't co-sign any of this.