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The Talisman Of Tomorrow Falters On Cordae’s ‘Just Until….’ - EP Review

There’s been an arduous absence following Cordae’s formal introduction to the world. ‘The Lost Boy’ was one of the most impressive debut musical statements in recent memory. A lesson in humility, Cordae assumed a quest to quell worldly suspicions and understand his roots. His troubled upbringing and brash smarminess co-existed as tools to pin a flawed everyday Joe as the face of one of hip-hop’s most audacious talents. Proving himself to be the jewel in the crown of his YBN collective only led to departure, and after subjecting myself to the abysmally bland catalogs of his compatriots, I can’t say I blame him. Multiple years and one global crisis later and Cordae is back, and unfortunately, out of practice. On ‘Just Until….’ Cordae’s brought a new bag of tricks, but it’s at the sacrifice of the linguistics that made him such a breath of fresh air in the first place.

On ‘The Lost Boy’ Cordae was acutely aware of the narrative. With eyes closed, he navigated a play-by-play dissection of his deeply internalised struggles, on ‘Just Until….’ his efforts become wide-eyed as he dilutes intriguing social critique with hollow gloating. On ‘Dream in Color’ Cordae is oblivious to the tenderness of a world without judgment, as he blindly dismisses its impact by mixing idyllic dreams and self-indulgent business accomplishments. It’s on ‘Wassup’, however, where worrisome distractions turn into an obsession for Cordae. Fulfilling the trifecta of the stereotype trapstar starter pack, Cordae sprinkles one unflattering reference to materialism after another. Wading through kiddie-pool-shallow observations, the former hip-hop heavy-weight says surprisingly little on ‘Just Until….’.

Despite his uncharacteristic faults on the EP, Cordae’s previously honed skill set proves to be more than enough to earn magnetic applause from seasoned veterans and modern pioneers alike. This transgenerational appeal is put to the test as ‘Just Until….’ calls upon a star-studded lineup, only to aid meagre highs. ‘More Life’ is Cordae’s very own David and Goliath tale. Q-Tip, who handles the hook with a limp expression, gawps as Cordae runs rings around him. The latter is clinical atop some of the slickest production of his career. Conversely, Cordae bends over backwards to make ‘Wassup’ with Young Thug work. It’s rough patchwork, but the duo creates a formidable back and forth dynamic, even if it’s at the cost of Cordae’s usual uncompromising lead.

Cordae is still growing, and ‘Just Until….’ is proof of that. His youth shows as the transition period is far from perfect, but his ability to abandon the safety of his nest and branch out through so many varying stylistic avenues is something so few of his contemporaries would even dare dream of. The shapeshifter has never shied away from exhibiting a knack for stringing a sweet as honey melody together, but on ‘Dream in Color’ Cordae struts his chops with a performance straight from the heavens. With an underscore of ghoulish chanting and voodoo-synths, ‘Wassup’ hardly reinvents the wheel, but Cordae adds more to the trap aesthetics in a matter of minutes than most who have spent a lifetime trying to figure it out. Unsurprisingly, it’s the familiar themes of kinship and sacrifice on ‘Thornton Street’ that steals the show. A delectably vintage orchestra meets a heart-breaking bomb of nostalgia, it doesn’t just rival his most complete confessions from ‘The Lost Boy’, but actively outdoes them.

When conventionalised writing choices are dangled in front of him, Cordae loses sight of his own refined brilliance. The emcee is still a force to be reckoned with on ‘Just Until….’, but his captivating charisma and poetic scripture get lost in an endless conveyor-belt rotation of self-congratulatory remarks. With that being said, ‘Just Until….’ is Cordae’s most malleable work yet - demanding that the exemplar pupil twist and turns to interact with new dimensions and more ambitious sounds. Flawed as it may be, the EP never once shackles itself with limitation. Cordae strikes me as an artist who’s hungry to prove himself again, and I hope that this steely-eyed approach translates to whatever fully-fleshed-out album Cordae has in the works.

Just Until…. - Cordae - 6/10

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