Grammy-nominated artist Cordae on his latest album, 'From A Bird's Eye View'
SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
This is Cordae.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SINISTER")
CORDAE: (Rapping) Yeah, all right - my flow sinister. This ain't rap music - this straight literature. Small-minded, all your ideas miniature - they tend to hate on you when they can't get rid of ya. I ain't going nowhere - 20-year career minimum.
SIMON: One of hip-hop's emerging artists, he earned two Grammy nominations for his first album, and now he's out with his second, "From A Bird's Eye View," which also features Stevie Wonder and Lil Wayne.
Cordae joins us now from New York.
Thank you so much for being with us.
CORDAE: Thank you guys for having me - honored to be here.
SIMON: What have these last two years been like for you? - because your debut album, "The Lost Boy," was a real success. And then you went on tour.
CORDAE: It's been dope, man. Honestly been - our word of the year - of this new year - has been gratitude - just soaking in the moment and just making the most out of every opportunity, you know - 'cause not too many people are blessed as I am. And I'm just thinking about my legacy as a musical artist and how I want to be remembered, you know?
SIMON: You're thinking about that already.
CORDAE: Yeah. The greatest human act is to inspire. Nipsey Hussle said that. And I truly believe that, you know? We are put on this earth, especially as artists, to inspire, you know, as many people as possible. And a huge thing about legacy is based upon the work - the groundwork that you've done - and even more than that, just doing dope things.
SIMON: Let me ask you about a song on this album called "Champagne Glasses."
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CHAMPAGNE GLASSES")
CORDAE: (Rapping) Conversation's getting complicated, I could tell ya. Fifteen - was in them handcuffs for paraphernalia. I grew up in them trenches. Boy, your house had wine cellar. If anybody ever had a problem, gave 'em hell. I got my auntie brother's daddy cousin backstage passes. Everybody celebrating with they champagne glasses. I'm just sittin' full of pain as I'm tourin' the country. Thought the stress-free life was gon' come with the money.
SIMON: Tell us what this song reflects and where it comes from in your life.
CORDAE: I made this song when I was on tour. And I felt like everybody around me was much happier than I was. And I realized it's not selfish to put yourself first versus trying to make everybody else happy at the cost and the expense of my own happiness and thinking that monetary wealth equates to a stress-free life or happiness, you know. It makes life a lot more convenient, I'll tell you that. It's one less thing...
CORDAE: ...To worry about. But it doesn't make you happy.
(SOUNDBITE OF CORDAE SONG, "CHAMPAGNE GLASSES")
SIMON: Your music makes a lot of references to your faith and some kind of personal spiritual journey. You say at one point, we're all here for an assignment.
CORDAE: Absolutely. I feel like we were all pre-assigned the journey before we were put on this earth. And it's up to us to walk in that. And a lot of the time, that assignment and the path that we're given is a lot more extravagant, illustrious and productive than what we hold even our highest dreams to. You know, I'm just tapping into what my assignment is. And I still don't have it all the way figured out. But I know it's - I'm here to be great.
SIMON: I want to ask you about the song "Momma's Hood."
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MOMMA'S HOOD")
CORDAE: (Rapping) I was riding through my momma hood, rollin' in Jeep. I ain't playin' with you. Boy, I'm playin' for keeps. Tryna prey on the weak - I ain't talkin' too much. I only say what I mean. I bring the whole city out every time that I'm home.
SIMON: It's got - that tells a story that's very close to you, I gather.
CORDAE: Yeah, absolutely. I wrote that song the day after one of my close friends - who I played basketball with in high school - had gotten killed, and I was just talking to him a couple of days before. And I was dealing with survivor's guilt 'cause I felt like, man, I could have saved him. I directly could have saved him. So it's almost like I killed him to - in my mind at this time, you know?
SIMON: How do you think you could have saved him, may I ask?
CORDAE: Maybe bringing him on the road with me or moving him out to California with me or, you know, just taking him out from the environment that we was in.
SIMON: Well, God bless. I'm sure you have friends that tell you, you know, you can only do so much.
CORDAE: Yes - true indeed.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MOMMA'S BOY")
CORDAE: (Rapping) When I got robbed in high school, you even flew to the town. Couldn't really live with him, now I'm livin' without him. And you was just here with us listenin' to the new album. Told me that it was a classic, better than my last. We used to have hoop dreams and skip all our classes. And now my - dead and gone - shed these tears up in this song. Shoulda got him out. I right my wrong - real - what I condone. Every - got his flaws.
SIMON: What was it like to write that song?
CORDAE: It was therapeutic in a way. You know, grieving is always not the most fun thing, you know? But it provided closure, if you would.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MOMMA'S BOY")
CORDAE: Bro was the first one gettin' money amongst us all. Like - he was, like, 15, 16 years old. And he always kept a bankroll on him. And I just miss my dog, man.
SIMON: Cordae is out with his second full-length album, "From A Bird's Eye View."
Thank you very much for being with us. We'll look forward to everything you do.
CORDAE: I appreciate you guys for having me - honored to speak with you all.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "C. CARTER")
CORDAE: (Rapping) I used to dream about a Dodge Charger - suicide doors, sittin’ on 24's. I was tryna find a job, but why bother? Being broke can make you try harder. Sittin' in the house watchin’ "Coach Carter." Plottin' on this Cartier - hey. Plus a - tryna go farther. I finally arrived, and nobody's here - hey. I used to dream about a new Hummer back when GOOD Music dropped "Cruel Summer." Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.