Review: Cordae, ‘From a Birds Eye View’

Cordae continues to showcase unfulfilled potential; a young talent with the bars that’s lacking the charisma.

It’s almost a risk to take yourself as a serious rapper in mainstream rap nowadays. That’s usually the effect of overtly expressing your rapping ability. Cordae made his path clear when he formally left the YBN collective in 2020, a short-lived trio that had different visions in mind. In that short time, Cordae’s already ticked off bucket list essentials: collaborations with Eminem, Nas and Lil Wayne, Grammy nods and respect across generations.

Though among those feats, Cordae is still trying to find his path as an artist. His sophomore album remains in limbo, carrying the right intentions with underwhelming execution.

Photography: Raven Varona

When simplified, From a Birds Eye View ticks all the essentials. Here lies a smooth and steady listen with attention to lyricism, appropriate features and avenues of production. A quick look at the tracklist lets you know Cordae’s intentions to bridge the old school with the new, a balance he is happy to spearhead with no complaints. Fair enough, because if anyone can do it is in fact Cordae, a rapper with the mentality that various eras can co-exist peacefully.

From a Birds Eye View establishes itself as an ambitious album. It is eager to be great, but gets caught up in that thought. It yearns to be conceptual, to tell a story that captures the listener like his influences have. Though it’s clear that after two albums, his USP is still raw. What do rap fans come to Cordae for? This is a question that remains to be answered across the 14 tracks.

If there is a USP in play, the guess would be the personal content. Cordae and reflection go hand in hand, waxing thoughts on the come-up especially (“Such a overthinker, I’m so self-reflective”). To the detriment of Cordae, there are no gripping angles explored that his peers aren’t exploring better already. He must give a reason for the listener to care for his story. Currently, Cordae’s story is as bland as it comes.

Despite brevity on its side, From a Birds Eye View struggles to come together as the experience Cordae intends. There’s trap 808s, soulful hip hop and R&B duets all flung in the mix with no blatant sequencing (“Jean-Michel” would have been the perfect closer than an opener). By the time you’re expecting poignant impact, the album is done and dusted (fortunately saving the best beat for last).

Cordae ensures there’s a standout moment in “Super”, a song that grips that ambition and runs to the finish line. There are potent verses, engaging production and a memorable hook, commanding your senses and confident in its attitude that it’s a good song. This is a welcomed contrast to the album’s focus on sugary singing and mellow production that’s instantly forgettable.

“I ain’t going nowhere, twenty-year career minimum,” he says on the Lil Wayne-assisted “Sinister” (who unleashes the venom needed to save the naked track). Longevity is on Cordae’s mind, and the confidence is commendable. He clearly wants to be a rap great, but is still figuring out how to write a gripping album. With two years already down, he may not have the eighteen left to achieve it.

6 / 10

Best tracks: “Super”, “Jean-Michel”, “Westlake High”