“YBN: The Mixtape” review

The mixtape is supposed to display the young hip-hop trio's strengths, but rather emphasizes their weaknesses.

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“YBN: The Mixtape” review

(Trevor Wilson/Amherst Wire)

(Trevor Wilson/Amherst Wire)

(Trevor Wilson/Amherst Wire)

(Trevor Wilson/Amherst Wire)

Trevor Wilson, Writer

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In the the hip-hop world, YBN is still quite new to the scene. What started as a gaming crew turned out to be one of the hottest young hip-hop groups of the year.

The group’s ringleader, YBN Nahmir, hails from Birmingham, Alabama. His hit single “Rubbin Off the Paint” rushed him into the spotlight. Since then, Nahmir has been featured on a number of other tracks including G-Eazy’s “1942.” He even landed a spot in XXL magazine’s 2018 Freshman Class.

The second member, Almighty Jay, is from Texas and rose to stardom through singles like “No Hook” and “2 Tone Drip.”

Lastly, we arrive at YBN Cordae, who provides a rather stark contrast to the rest of the group. Born in Raleigh, North Carolina, Cordae’s fame has risen exponentially. He dropped a response to J. Cole’s “1985” titled “Old N****s,” where he used punchline rap and clever lyricism to compare the different eras of hip-hop music.

The YBN trio created their buzz individually, dropping a series of singles on their own before their mixtape came into the forefront. Their first project, appropriately titled “YBN: The Mixtape,” features upbeat, gritty, head-bopping trap music.

However, the YBN crew still has a lot of work to do. While their potential certainly shines through, their flaws are evident.

One immediate flaw is the group’s immaturity. They’re young, yes — but their flows and lyrics sound like it, too.

Almighty Jay maintains an amateur flow throughout the majority of the project and hardly veers from it. Through much of the album, he sounds a lot like Rich the Kid, using similar flows and cadences. While imitation can be a sign of appreciation, in hip-hop, imitation leads to artists being labeled as “biters” or “sons” of the rapper they’re taking from. From the ad-libs to the flows, and even his voice, Almighty Jay sounds like the most amateur artist on the mixtape due to a lack of originality.

Nahmir sounds a bit more polished (although his lyrics are nothing special). He sticks to his strengths, using dark, abrasive lyrics to suit to his gang-rap repertoire. Nahmir shines on tracks like “Feel Like” and “Cake” featuring Wiz Khalifa. That being said, Nahmir’s sound does get a little dry and some tracks seem to blend together. This becomes especially apparent on tracks like “Up-Top Baby” and “No Relations.”

Cordae doesn’t appear on the mixtape as frequently as the other group members, but his work is strong. He’s featured on the tracks, “Target,” “Alaska,” “Kung Fu,” and “Pain Away” with Nahmir. He previously released the tracks “Kung Fu” and “Alaska” (previously titled “Scotty Pippen”) as singles, but “Target” and “Pain Away” are new.

In “Target,” Cordae dives into the issue of racial profiling and discusses it as if he’s in the situation himself. While the concept is great, “Target” may be Cordae’s weakest song. He doesn’t seem to have the same lyrical prowess and ingenuity that he boasts in “Kung Fu” and “Alaska.” His flow is undeniably great, but the tracks lack memorable bars, such as  in “Kung Fu” when he cleverly spits, “Won’t stop, who’s that? Keep the Tommy on me like a Rugrat.”

Punchline bars have become a staple for Cordae’s brand, but it can grow tiresome. Sometimes Cordae seems to force bars while trying to be clever, which can come off as hackneyed.

The Verdict: 5/10

“YBN: The Mixtape” is just a preview of what the YBN guys can do. They each have their own distinctive styles, but what holds them back is immaturity. They simply haven’t had enough time to fully develop those styles, but there is plenty of potential here.

If Almighty Jay can find a way to alter his sound and delivery, he can really stand out. As for Nahmir, many of his songs sound similar and his lyrics suffer from lack of substance. Cordae has the most potential to blow up his delivery, flow and lyricism really stand out from the other two members.

So what’s next for the YBN crew? Growth. This group is very young, and as they mature we may see these guys grow to become great. However, it’s also possible that we see them break off as solo artists.

That being said, each of them has the potential to really make waves in the rap game.

Email Trevor at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @TrevorWilsonOG.

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