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In rap music, collectives are often created out of necessity, whether it’s to establish a necessary atmosphere and brotherly love or to birth collective opportunities in the pursuit of fame. Odd Future was formed in 2007 out of a group of friends seeking more from life than the current livelihood each member was exposed to, and to advance off of the opportunity that they could grasp together. Brockhampton met on the KanyeToThe web forum (then known as KanyeLive) through a search for members to create a rap group. These stories generate interest because they’re entertaining, also showcasing the grassroots nature of hip-hop. Building connections in organic ways offers the greatest amounts of success. Historically, hip-hop has always thrived off of that. Wu-Tang Clan was a circle of friends looking for something bigger when they came together in the early 1990s; N.W.A. was created out of necessity to facilitate more interest and traffic with more than just Eazy-E in the fold.

The Young Boss Nigga collective that’s become one of rap’s leading names of the new age met through Grand Theft Auto Online sessions on Xbox. This anticlimactic story doesn’t quite have the same ring as meeting through an online forum, but it does help to ground their relationship as more authentic than manufactured for the sake of opportunity. The collective’s a one-stop shop of rap’s clashing styles, brought to the forefront in an age of malleability. Because of this, they’re on the verge of becoming legends without having a project out. That Young Boss Niggas Vol. 1 comes out on September 7 only adds to their prestige.

There are 10 people currently inside the group: YBN Nahmir, YBN Almighty Jay, YBN Cordae, YBN Glizzy, YBN Manny, YBN Walker, YBN Nicky Baandz, YBN Malik, YBN Carl, and YBN Dayday. This mix is comprised of artists, promoters, and members with no clear purpose. It’s hard to determine who exactly would be responsible for their continued success. But one thing’s certain: the triumvirate of YBN Nahmir, YBN Almighty Jay and YBN Cordae have been the trident thrusting the group into new levels of eminence at every turn.

YBN Nahmir’s “Rubbin Off The Paint” arrived at the perfect time. The Pie’rre Bourne-type beat, created by Izak who was inspired by Bourne, hit around the time of Bourne’s first true explosion of popularity. Audiences were floored at the way Nahmir ran across the production with relative ease. His flow was sharp enough to match up with rappers twice his age, confidence radiating off of each bar bereft with swagger with suaveness. The song quickly went viral. Tay K, a viral rapper now permanently submerged beneath the United States Legal System, had beaten him to the viral party by minutes, but his exit came swiftly thanks to his past re-entering his life. Tay K left a sizeable impact on the rap game in his absence through Billboard’s chart and one of the fastest-growing YouTube videos in history, but Nahmir swiftly stepped into his spot when the world needed something to plug in the hole that Tay left open.

Thus came the fascination with Nahmir. A petite package, around 5’7″, a few stray wisps of post-adolescent facial hair on his face, dreads dangling from his scalp. He’s the average kid on Xbox without the commanding height or effortless swagger. Yet he manages to continuously build his persona as the everyman, utilizing his boyishness to demand attention from every corner of new-age rap’s circle. His inclusion in XXL’s 2018 Freshman Class speaks to his appeal to the new generation. His plethora of swag raps makes his music enticing to modern listeners that have grown used to the lack of thematic content in rap. Of the spearhead, he sounds the most confident with his style too.

YBN Almighty Jay is cut from a similar cloth as Nahmir. He’s frighteningly small but liable to run off at the mouth at any moment. He’s not pushing the envelope when it comes to spitting in the booth, but that’s not his purpose. He’s a fireball of pure, young-adult energy that infatuates anyone looking to exist in this space. Just listen to “YBN Almighty Zay,” a Zaytoven-produced two-minute jet ski ride into the thick of machismo without safety in mind. He’s actually a little more reckless than Nahmir, serving as a welcome second-in-command to the group’s monarch-like structure. He rose to prominence thanks to the ever-selective Blac Chyna becoming incensed by his youthful demeanor and jovial presence. Chyna’s garnered a reputation throughout the years as a difficult-to-deal-with financial opportunist; if Jay was able to bag her, he must be the cream of the crop. This has amounted to a certain kind of prestige attached to his career. The music hasn’t quite infected the mainstream in the way that Nahmir’s has been able to—he also hasn’t been given the luxury of time either—but he’s well on the way to household status.

Although similar to Nahmir, Jay’s fandom occupies a different subset of new-age rap culture. Jay’s much cockier and more arrogant with his raps and aesthetic, appealing to youth more attuned to flexing as opposed to just existing. He bridges the gap between aware and alpha effortlessly. Seeing the two interact with each other is like watching puppies wrestle inside of a picnic basket. They toss and tussle, but like the dogs, it’s all in good fun to assert dominance. More than a plethora of other rap collectives, Nahmir and Jay seem to genuinely enjoy each other’s time. Probably because their relationship was forged prior to the recording booths and big lights but, nevertheless, the world notices and appreciates true chemistry. The mantra that “the industry is fake” is constantly dumped on us day in and day out; seeing two artists who showcase a realistic look at friendship makes fans of hip-hop tune in.

YBN Cordae is one of the latest pieces of the puzzle that’s played perhaps the biggest part in increasing how serious both the industry and fans take YBN as a whole. He’s 20 years old—Nahmir is 18, Jay is 19—and seems to be a generation removed from his YBN peers in terms of both artistry and poise. He carries himself with the kind of mature confidence that is reminiscent of the steely calm that “Rigamortis”-era Kendrick Lamar did nearly a decade before. When he steps onto the mic, the comparisons to Kendrick Lamar continue; JAY-Z, Eminem, and J. Cole are all frequent comparisons, as well. He may be the most traditional rapper of his generation, falling back on pre-established rhyme schemes and verbal tics to craft light lyrical sermons that have went a long way in re-establishing lyricism as a tenant of contemporary hip-hop culture.

Industry plants don’t exist but, if they do, Cordae’s rapid ascent could only make sense if he was one. He connected with the collective through the internet, hanging out as friends while in Los Angeles on multiple occasions. He came into the spotlight with the sharp response to J. Cole’s “1985 (Intro to the Fall Off)” called “Old Niggas,” answering J. Cole’s condescending message to the new-age with a snarky, yet depressing look at the abysmal generation before him. It quickly went viral; next came his freestyle “My Name Is,” using Eminem’s song and beat as the template for yet another powerful lyrical statement. Cordae has been on a tear since then, possibly even besting both Jay and Nahmir in terms of relevancy.

Now, the three are inseparable. In a recent interview with No Jumper, Cordae, Nahmir, and Jay all sat down for a conversation bereft with smiles, insults, and a general sense of camaraderie. Their jokes at each other’s expenses never felt like they were delivered with malicious intent. The fact that they all have their own styles and stick with them showcases their ability to understand their roles in both the collective and the rap game, and they can play them confidently.

With their new project Young Boss Niggas Vol. 1 coming up, it’ll be exciting to explore the depths of their creativity. We’ve heard Nahmir, Jay, and Cordae weave in and out of each other’s songs to create a full spectrum of rap in the new-age; bringing their talents together for one project should be interesting. Is their entire charade only held together by the strength of their popularity? Or does camaraderie really play an important part in the creation of great music? On September 7 (allegedly), the answers will be available.

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