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YBN Cordae on Starring in Coca Cola Energy's Super Bowl Spot: Exclusive

YBN Cordae
Jessica Xie

YBN Cordae photographed on July 23, 2019 in New York.

For a rapper who makes losses sound like sweet struggles on wax, YBN Cordae makes success look effortless. The lethal lyricist who emerged on the scene, pushing bars under the name Entendre, was, to borrow a name from one of his buzziest tracks, “broke as f---” only a year and a half ago. Now, he’s secured a deal with Art@War/Atlantic Records, is currently headlining his own nationwide tour and thrives in the same room as icons like Dr. Dre. He can also humblebrag about his vigorous 2019 studio debut The Lost Boy, which earned him two nods at this year’s ceremony for Best Rap Album and Best Rap Song for its single “Bad Idea” featuring Chance the Rapper.

While the Maryland rep didn’t bring home trophies, he already feels like he’s won. The latest entry in his highlight reel: a cameo in the commercial for Coca Cola’s new energy drink alongside Oscar-winning filmmaker Martin Scorsese, and producer, director and actor Jonah Hill, set to air at this Sunday’s Super Bowl (Feb. 2). The ad for Coca Cola Energy — which adds a caffeinated boost to the classic beverage and hits shelves this month in the following flavors: Coca Cola Energy, Coca Cola Energy Zero Sugar, Coca Cola Energy Cherry and Coca Cola Energy Cherry Zero Sugar — finds Cordae in a playful state as Hill ponders partying with Scorcese in a text message exchange that many can relate to, especially when three dots appear.  

During his shoot day in Los Angeles (Jan. 8), Cordae recently hit pause to sit down with Billboard and evaluate his whirlwind year. He also gets introspective while reflecting on manifesting his Grammy nominations, discussing money management and remaining himself unapologetically.

Billboard: You just just landed a role in the new Coca-Cola energy ad making its official debut on Sunday during the Super Bowl. What was your reaction when approached about the partnership?

YBN Cordae: That was mad tight. I didn't know who Martin Scorsese was. I was born in ‘97, but I heard him in a Drake line [on “Tuscan Leather”] that was tough: “Life is soundin' crazy, 40 on Martin Scorsese/ And I wouldn't change a thing if you paid me.” 

And everybody f--- with Jonah [Hill]. I heard he f---s with hip-hop a lot too. It's real dope. I was just watching [Hill’s movie] Superbad not too long ago. 

Talk to me about the beverage.

No bullshit, like that s--- is actually good. I try not to drink too much soda but you know, at the cookout, they always have like Coca Cola sittin’ there and the Coca Cola Energy Cherry [flavor] is actually really good. Before shows and performances, I tried it and it worked.

Any Super Bowl predictions?

I need [Baltimore Ravens player] Lamar Jackson to take that thing home. [Ed. Note: At the time of this interview, the Baltimore Ravens were vying for a spot at Super Bowl LIV. The two teams going head-to-head this Sunday in Miami are the San Francisco 49ers and Kansas City Chiefs.]

What are your contributions to the commercial?

I get to just be myself and it's going to be tight. I haven’t seen it and [I’m gonna be seeing it] the same time as you for sure. [Laughs]

You had two Grammy nominations and you were very emotional in a video you shared after you found out the news. What was running through your head?

I watched [the nomination announcement] live so I knew I was gonna get this. So it wasn't like I was surprised. You know how you just get that feeling? You gotta have that confidence in yourself, based on the work, effort, and the amount of heart and soul you put into your craft. [My team and I] were saying that the whole time we were making a body of work, like this s--- definitely goin’ straight to the Grammys. When I talked to my mom and we were just talking about all the stuff we done been through, she started getting emotional. And when your mom's getting emotional, it’s only right [you get emotional, too].

It feels like you believe in speaking things into existence. 

Through time, you just learn it ‘cause it works. The tongue is powerful. 

As someone who used to get frequent calls from Sallie Mae, what's your money mentality these days especially now that you've had a little more success?

Same way. Just stack up and live good. I think life is just all about enjoying s--- with people you love. People who genuinely f--- with you. That's what makes this s--- cool. Like you don't want to be the guy with the big ass empty house with nobody to share all your cool s--- with. I still be with the same homies. I got a cool car but I live fairly regular. 

It's just a balance ‘cause everybody wants nice things. I feel good when I put on a dope jacket or some designer luggage. It feels dope ‘cause n----s wasn't ever doing that before. I feel like in hip-hop, everybody just be competing with each other about money and who got the nicest s---. Like you really don't got to do that. That should just stop. I felt like that's why people f---ed with that Sneaker Shopping [clip] ‘cause I took some [shoes] back on camera. I wasn't even thinking about that. I was like, hold, ‘cause actually, I can get these for free to be honest. 

What does 2020 look like for you?

A lot of touring and hopefully, a new body of work. I've got some really tight s---. 

What are some collaborations you hope to manifest this year?

I’ve got ‘em already [but] I’d love to work with Bill Withers. His catalog is just incredible. [It has] so many timeless classics, and absolute feel-good music.

You recently did a collaboration with H.E.R. but any plans to work with other women in music?

Yeah, for sure. I got a lot of that. I love working with female artists because they bring a whole different vibe. There’s so much dope female artists out right now. It’s like a wave, like Snoh Aalegra and Summer Walker are mad dope. H.E.R. obviously — that’s family. 

How do you continue to elevate your pen game? What do you feel like you have to prove now?

You’ve got to prove yourself 10 different times [to so many people] to prove yourself, if that makes sense. You can prove yourself once and n----s will be like, ‘Okay.’ There will still be some doubt and you got to do it again. I’m just trying to get better as an artist and as a human being. I feel like that’s mad important.

Can we envision a country song with Cordae on it, though?

[Pauses then smiles] I don’t know. Experimenting is part of the process. I remember when I was younger, I spent a whole year just writing on straight trap beats because I just wanted to be able to do that at a high level. So it’s about perfecting your craft in every way.

Do you have any non-music goals now that you’re a little more familiar with the industry and the opportunities it brings?

Just stay true to myself. That's not even my goal. That's what you always have to do, ‘cause at the end of the day when the cameras are off and you put your phone down, you got to live with yourself, be comfortable and sleep at night with the decisions you've made so I’m just always myself unapologetically. And if you like it, that's dope. If you don't, that's cool, too.

Super Bowl 53

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