In 2018, YBN Cordae was a broke college dropout—a lost boy in search of acceptance. Now, he is a XXL Freshman and playing to sold-out stadiums on tour with Logic. The 22-year-old is also responsible for one of the strongest debuts of 2019, The Lost Boy.
Finally familiar with success, Cordae is beginning to comprehend what the great Christopher Wallace meant when he said, “mo’ money, mo’ problems.” This understanding brings us to his J. Cole-produced, Anderson .Paak-featuring collaboration “RNP.”
Prior to the release of The Lost Boy and .Paak performed “RNP” on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. Their onstage chemistry reflected their magic on wax—comparable to Hell: The Sequel-era Bad Meets Evil. Like Eminem and Royce da 5’9”, the pair crafted a technically impressive back-and-forth verse, which is a feat in and of itself.
Some takeaways from YBN Cordae & Anderson .Paak’s “RNP” verse above:
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- The verse is 16 bars long and contains 156 words, or 9.75 words per bar
- 114 of those 156 words are unique, or 73.1%
- 102 of those 156 words contain significant rhymes, which is 65.4% or 6.4 words per bar
- With 116 significant rhymes, they average 7.25 rhymes per bar
What stands out immediately about this Cordae and .Paak collaboration is the amazing repartee the pair put on display. This feat is likely due to their being “best friends outside of music.” That said, their first official collaboration almost wasn’t—as Cordae originally recorded a different song over the same production in the summer of 2018.
When Cordae previewed the record for the Malibu recording artist off-air during his appearance on .Paak House Radio, .Paak told him the song was terrible, but the beat was amazing. The pair would re-record the track in the Beats 1 studio, going “line-for-line” in a “back-and-forth” freestyle, using no pen or paper, according to Cordae. “The song is like a conversation, us literally picking up each other’s lines, which is so hip-hop,” Cordae told SiriusXM.
Cordae is correct in likening to and fro verses to a polished conversation; these verses play out like dialogue, a language construct we study from six months of age onward. However, they’re also more refined and fluid, yet structured; qualities that make for a better listening experience.
This “structured fluidity” (sounds contradictory, right?) shows in the way both artists sprinkle their rhymes throughout the record. For example, end rhymes are a poetry staple, and they traditionally come in multiples of two; your average MC won’t stray far from an AABB “traditional” or ABAB “couplet” rhyme scheme format.
Cordae and .Paak are focused on the frequency of their rhyming for this verse. We see this especially in the third couplet, where the multi-end rhyme of the fifth line rhymes with the multi on the next half-bar and the end rhyme of the sixth doesn’t match up with any of the surrounding end rhymes.
Like a Super Saiyan fusion or cereal and milk, separately they’re great but combined they are truly something special.