There’s a certain irony in the title of Cordae’s debut album The Lost Boy because, as he tells it, he knew that hip-hop would be his life’s calling when he began penning his first songs at age 10. With that belief in mind, he still gave college a try, enrolling at Towson University -- though his stint there would be short lived. After the release of his viral remix to J. Cole’s “1985,” Cordae opted to walk away from campus life and his shifts at Texas Roadhouse because his face had become too noticeable for class or a traditional 9-to-5. The 2018 freestyle introduced fans and outlets like Vibe magazine to his signature wordplay and within weeks the accompanying video had amassed several hundreds of thousands of views on YouTube before being temporarily pulled from the platform. And with lyrics as impertinent as the song’s title, “Old N*****” was Cordae’s signal flare to the rest of the industry – he wasn’t going to hold punches or mince words. After all, he had a love for hip-hop and an appreciation for lyrics that was sewn at a young age.
Cordae was born just outside of Raleigh, North Carolina before relocating to Suitland, Maryland with his mother and younger brother, Simba. He remembers stepping up as the man of the house early, having grown up without his father for a considerable portion of his adolescence. “I'd wake up in the middle of the night [as a kid] just to make sure the doors is locked and I used to sleep with a little baseball bat under my bunk bed. They used to call me ‘Man’, for real, that was my nickname. So, I think that's where my sense of maturity came from so young.” His dad’s day-to-day absence didn’t hamper his influence and Cordae reflects fondly on the summer months they’d spend together. The pair would pass the hours riding in his dad’s car while the speakers belted out some of the most celebrated by-products of hip-hop’s golden era. From regional vanguards like Nas and Andre 3000 to cult classics like Big L’s Lifestylez Ov Da Poor & Dangerous, these car rides were a crash course for a young Cordae who sought to make it by way of his pen and pad. For a moment, he almost slips back into one of those memories, breaking away mid-interview to chant the “R-O-C, yeah!” from Jay-Z’s anthemic “Diamond Is Forever.”