YBN Cordae turns his audience members into rappers at Cornerstone

Josh Kahen/Staff

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On Friday, Grammy Award-nominated rapper YBN Cordae graced the Berkeley community with an intimate, incredibly engaging performance at Cornerstone for his most recent album, The Lost Boy.

YBN Cordae’s stage design made complete use of the limited space on the Cornerstone platform. A large, rugged wooden sign reading “The Lost Boy” hung at the back of the stage, with spindly, skinny trees flanking the stage’s ends. The rapper made up for a half-hour delay by walking onstage while rapping his first song of the night, “Wintertime.” After addressing the audience, he smoothly transitioned into “Have Mercy,” his second song of the night as well as of The Lost Boy. This song choice invigorated his already excited audience, turning the room into a mosh pit of fans losing themselves in both his music and the energy he radiated.

As Cordae Amari Dunston, artistically known as YBN Cordae, ended his second song, he silently stood and listened to the crowd chant his name. Deep in concentration, he broke into a freelance rap about Berkeley and his time spent performing in the Bay Area, beatboxing to set the rhythm. He made his audience feel truly special as he rapped the song to them, effortlessly and without any warning. 

YBN Cordae’s performance of “Bad Idea,” another song from his latest album, was soulful and beautiful. He concluded this performance by encouraging the audience, who he said “sounded so good,” to sing the chorus along with him. The venue reverberated with coos of the lyrics “Don’t you cry, don’t you cry/ It’ll be alright,” every member of the audience singing in unison. 

The most memorable moment of the night, without a doubt, was YBN Cordae’s performance of “RNP,” featured on his new album with rapper Anderson .Paak. He was joined by his DJ, who grabbed a mic from the turntable to perform the back-and-forth conversation that is the chorus. YBN Cordae finished his song strong, but wasn’t satisfied just yet — he proceeded to extend his spotlight to a brave member of the audience, giving them the opportunity to duel the chorus of “RNP” with him. 

Before his listeners could process what was happening, an audience member named Ryan was up onstage, handed a mic and rapping with YBN Cordae. The energy of this moment was unparalleled; YBN Cordae was exceptionally encouraging and ensured that Ryan was having a good time, above all. “Ryan killed that s—, give it up for him!” YBN Cordae concluded, giving Ryan the warmest of hugs. 

The rapper’s performance of his single “Kung Fu” toward the end of the concert was dynamic, urging listeners to dance. Every member of the audience was on their feet, moshing and jumping, in sharp contrast to YBN Cordae’s performance of “Way Back Home,” during which he asked his audience to raise their cellphone flashlights as they swayed to his music. 

Throughout the performance, YBN Cordae made it evident that he isn’t just a rapper — he is also a singer with a tremendous voice, bringing new character into every song he performed onstage. He differentiated the songs from the way they sounded on his record, weaving in beatboxing and using the sounds around him to create new music onstage. 

YBN Cordae makes his listeners his friends before making them his audience, and that’s what made this performance particularly special. He took long pauses after almost all of the songs in his setlist, as though absorbing the roars of the fans in front of him. After a show like this, it was obvious that the energy and warmth throughout the room were definitely products of his grade-A showmanship.

Contact Anoushka Agrawal at [email protected].