By Daniel Paiz
The perspective at times legitimately feels like that from an actual bird’s eye view, and that’s what brings back A Week’s Worth Album Review in 2022. Cordae’s long awaited album is a reflective and thoughtful project, albeit a bit shorter than this listener would’ve liked. There’s been a number of Cordae futures over the past few years, so the buzz has been growing since his 2019 The Lost Boy project.
There are a lot of ways to take looking at life from a bird’s eye view; this project does so unexpectedly in ways that sometimes hit, sometimes miss.
Different bird’s eye perspective
A bird’s eye view is something that gives one a view from above, but the above is hard to define. That’s to say, while it might be an elevated view physically, it might not be an elevated view of thought. Storytelling does seem to focus on a narrative-driven perspective. So, examining these snapshots from above challenges the listener to hear tracks differently.
Every track on this album is a snapshot of a particular instance encountered by the emcee. Because of this, a central narrative isn’t really the driving factor, but rather life itself is. Initially that might sound a bit mundane. But the descriptors used throughout by Cordae makes it more a stream of consciousness, hitting on different moods and emotions. Jean-Michel is the first such example of this, especially with these four lines:
Things I’ve could’ve done better, it lies in my conscience
And I’ll never forget it, I’m my worst critic
Such an overthinker, I’m so self-reflective
God willing, these parables go and sell some records-verse 1 on Jean-Michel
These lines highlight both the reflection that’s ever present over the course of this project, and the realities of what impacts one’s career and actions. Other songs discuss success and accolades via the expected braggadocio and listing of achievements. That last line shows how the commercial side of the art impacts future expectations and outcomes for the rhymer’s art. The awareness from the emcee is there, and the reflection via snapshot adds this moment to the bigger picture.
Not the bird’s eye view I expected
Another song that flashes the growth of Cordae like Jean-Michel is C Carter, a track later in the album. Reflection and nostalgia slightly drip throughout this song, but it’s just enough as the lines drop one by one. There’s something about the start of the second verse that draws this listener in, but then frustrates moments later:
Listen to these proverbs, the odd words we call rap music
That took me all across the globe, watch people react to it
Figments of imagination, couldn’t fathom elation
Ain’t describable with words, so I’ll go illustrate it
Illustrious rhymin’ career, for which my rhymes are revered
Clear signs of alignment shows my timing is near-verse 2 on C Carter
The fluidity of these lines is fantastic and shows growth. This delivery also draws in this listener. What’s frustrating however, is that while Cordae tells listeners what he can do, the following lines don’t show it (despite the alliteration). Claiming to have an illustrious rap career on your second album is getting ahead of yourself. If his timing is near (in terms of success) then how can the storied rap career have happened? That’s what draws this listener’s ire.
He does it again with “My fate bleeds and create seeds that eventually blossom to trees” which is smooth and demands to be replayed. Following that are a handful of lines that sound good but don’t have a deeper meaning for this listener. The back and forth between hints of something more that are then retreated can be frustrating, and likely why this album feels more mood-focused than lyrically driven. This does however add to the focus of snapshots and not a central narrative.
The structural concept of this album is a risky one worth attempting, because it’s an interesting method of storytelling. Decentralizing a narrative by deciding to use snapshots is a great explanation of how a bird’s eye view could be an effective storytelling pathway.
What falls short is, the heights of these snapshots are too distant at times. There are of course moments in time that capture more than just what’s in the image. However, it does feel like Cordae is keeping listeners at more than arm’s length occasionally. Few lines have any deeper meaning to them; and while that’s not surprising when storytelling, usually the story has a bigger narrative or lesson.
Westlake high has the makings of a song that’s reflective and self-aware in that there’s more to the story to tell. The problem is this is the final track on the album. Momma’s Hood sounds like a track with similar impact. But this amount of reflection, this review of certain life snapshots that are more than memorable isn’t consistent throughout. If you as a listener are looking for an album that’s more mood focused than sticking to the concept, this tape is for you.
But it feels like unless the listener has gone through this life trajectory, there’s a disconnect. That’s the artist’s right to keep things for themselves. But it leads to a bigger disconnect and the viewpoint is that of a hawk that’s miles above in the sky.