Over the weekend, Naomi Osaka secured her third Grand Slam title at the U.S. Open when she defeated Victoria Azarenka. It was a major career milestone for the 22-year-old tennis star, a moment witnessed by both her family and boyfriend, Cordae. The 23-year-old rapper could be spotted in the stands during that final match, sporting a Defund the Police tee and appropriately-positioned face mask. When Osaka delivered the final score against her opponent, Cordae was seen jumping up excitedly and thumping his fist against his chest:
It was just the latest moment of public support shared between the couple. Ahead, a few things to know about Cordae and a look at how this pair met.
He’s a Grammy-nominated rapper.
This Maryland native (real name Cordae Dunston) went from being a college student working at TGI Fridays to a Grammy-nominated artist in just a few short years. “I was miserable. That was when I was really like the lost boy,” Cordae told Billboard of his pre-musician days. “I was just miserable as f*ck at work. This was in Baltimore. I was working at a Fridays in Baltimore.”
According to the outlet, Cordae began rapping at age 15 and releasing music under the name Entendre. At age 21, he joined the group YBN and gained notoriety with his remake of J. Cole’s “1985” and remix of Eminem’s “My Name Is.” In 2019, he was named a member of the XXL Freshman Class of emerging rappers alongside DaBaby, Roddy Ricch, Megan Thee Stallion, and more.
In 2019, he scored two Grammy nominations for his debut solo album, The Lost Boy. Cordae was nominated in the Best Rap Album category and in Best Rap Song for his track, “Bad Idea.” His latest song, released in late August, is a Roddy Ricch collaboration called “Gifted.” It’s also the first song he’s released since dropping “YBN” from his professional name and gone solo.
When asked by Billboard what word he would use to describe this phase of his career, he replied, “‘Prequel,’ because it’s just the beginning of my long journey. I still have so much more shit I’m about to do, so much more shit I’m about to accomplish, so many more barriers that I’m about to break through. I’m just tapped in to my shit.”
He was previously in the YBN Crew.
In the wake of his successful solo career, Cordae split from the YBN crew in August 2020, Vulture reported. The group’s other members, YBN Nahmir and YBN Almighty Jay, have also embarked on separate projects after the crew’s 2018 release YBN: The Mixtape.
Although Cordae’s time with YBN marked a major chapter in his career, it’s his song with Anderson .Paak that he says people should listen to first. “RNP’ was released last year and the duo performed it together on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.
He’s got a circle of A-list friends and collaborators.
Cordae has listed some of his musical influences as Lauryn Hill, Jay-Z, Nas, Tupac, and “a tad of Eminem.” In his quick climb through the music industry, he’s had the chance to meet a few of his heroes already. Cordae shared a clip of Eminem singing his praises on Instagram in February. After calling Dr. Dre “the greatest producer of all time” on Twitter, he spent hours with him in the studio, which he documented in 2018. He’s collaborated with Pusha T, Meek Mill, H.E.R., and counts Dave Chappelle among his friend group.
He didn’t watch tennis—or know who Osaka was—before meeting her.
While Cordae’s been making a name for himself in the music world, he apparently hasn’t had much time to watch tennis. Cordae revealed in a Hot 97 radio interview that when he and Osaka met at a Los Angeles Clippers game he had no idea of her success. He went on to say that he wasn’t a huge tennis fan and only knew of Serena Williams (whom Osaka beat at the 2018 U.S. Open).
TMZ Sports first linked the couple together in April 2019, although a source said at the time that they weren’t “officially” an item yet. But Osaka posted a video with Cordae captioned, “Can’t take this guy anywhereeeee lol” and two months later he was confirming their romance. That December, they made their public debut as a couple at another Clippers game.
They are both super supportive of each other’s careers.
Since embarking on their relationship, Cordae has gotten a lot more familiar with the sport. He’s been by her side for several U.S. Open matches and videos of him after Osaka’s victory have gone viral.
Osaka similarly is a fan of Cordae’s music. In April, she coyly smiled on Instagram in a Cordae concert tee, captioning the post, “:) favorite shirt.”
Their joint Instagram posts are adorable.
In recent months, Osaka and Cordae have gotten more public with their private romance. June brought a mirror selfie dance, courtesy of Osaka, on Instagram. “Why does he have to be like this 😩😂?” she jokingly wrote.
They’ve also mastered the art of the loving birthday tribute on social media. Last October, Cordae wrote for Osaka’s 22nd birthday, “Happy Bday to my lil Supahstar 🥳@naomiosaka , you inspire me in more ways than you know. Happy to have a real one ❤️.”
This August, Osaka similarly praised her boyfriend of over a year on his big day. She captioned a photo of them lovingly looking at each other, “I always feel so lucky to be in your life and to be continuously learning from you. I‘m so grateful that I can talk to you about anything and ask for advice (cause you know I need all the help I can get lol). I love that you lay down and wait for me to go to sleep before you go record. Etc because the list goes on forever… I hope you’re having the best birthday, I’m sad I can’t be there but I’ll make it up to you 😖 happy 23rd, I love you @cordae ❤️.” He responded, “Love ya more❤️❤️❤️ thank Uu.”
He’s been in a Super Bowl commercial.
Another signal you’ve made it in show business is booking a Super Bowl commercial. Earlier this year, Cordae appeared in a Coca Cola ad alongside Jonah Hill and Martin Scorsese, which he shared on Instagram.
He’s active in the Black Lives Matter movement.
Osaka has made headlines during her latest path to a Grand Slam victory for her continued activism against racial injustice. Cordae has similarly spoken out in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, appearing at recent protests in Minneapolis for George Floyd and Louisville for Breonna Taylor. According to the Louisville Courier-Journal, Cordae was one of 87 people arrested during a demonstration outside the home of Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron’s house.
In his most recent Instagram post to feature Osaka, Cordae wrote, “To be Young, Gifted, and Black 👑 @naomiosaka 📸📸: @kaepernick7,” giving photo credit to Colin Kaepernick, Know Your Rights founder and former San Fransisco 49ers quarterback.
They’re having a child together.
Osaka and Cordae revealed they were expecting their first child together, and in May 2023, she announced they were going to be having a baby girl. She posted a shot of herself on Instagram in a Nike’s two-piece, in front of a sign reading “a princess is on the way.”
“[Cordae] knows the sex now—it was only a secret until we did the reveal party with our closest family and friends a couple of months ago,” Osaka said in an interview with Today. “It was hard to keep it a secret, but I also knew it would be much more fun to surprise him and everyone else during the party, so it was worth the wait.”
She added, “As far as what I’m most nervous about, probably just navigating all of the new life changes and trying to learn new things and figure it out as I go. I have a lot of helpful people around me to support, though, so that definitely puts my mind at ease.”
Savannah Walsh is an Editorial Fellow at ELLE.com.