Scene at Berklee: YBN Cordae

The Chance the Rapper collaborator shed light on his lyric-writing process and why self-confidence, while necessary, can only take you so far.

February 20, 2020

Scene at Berklee presents snapshots and stories from the hundreds of clinics, workshops, performances, and other events that take place in our community year-round.

YBN Cordae is a multiple-Grammy-nominated hip-hop artist who has collaborated with the likes of Anderson .Paak and Chance the Rapper. Praised for his encyclopedic lyricism and mastery of multisyllabic rhyming, he has released three mixtapes and a studio album, 2019's The Lost Boy. He is also only 22 years old—a fact that was easy to forget, given the wealth of practical and poetic wisdom he shared with students on campus during an interview with Prince Charles Alexander, professor in the Music Production and Engineering Department. “Music is a time capsule in a way,” Cordae said, when Alexander pointed out an obscure sports reference in one of the rapper’s songs. “Music is a timestamp to the culture within sports, within lifestyle, within everything.”

As a producer and an artist, Cordae leans heavily on feel and flow—something that became even more impressive when he revealed that he doesn’t have any formal musical training. He credits his success in part due to his self-confidence and commitment to putting in the work. “You have got to have enough self-confidence to drive yourself,” he said. “If you don’t believe in yourself, no one’s going to believe in you. Even when you believe in you, no one’s going to believe in you until you start showing some results.” Before taking questions from students, he offered some advice on what not to do when you end up in the same room with people like Chance or Young Thug. In a nutshell: treat it like networking rather than diving in for a selfie. “The first thing isn’t to ask for a picture. That’s going to automatically separate you from someone you want to do business with to a fan.”

Learn more: Study production techniques in the Music Production and Engineering Department with faculty such as Prince Charles Alexander, whose production credits include Mary J. Blige, Notorious B.I.G., and many more.

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