The next time you hear someone say Hip Hop is dead, don’t say anything, just simply pull out your phone and play KOTA The Friend. Yes, he’s that good, and I would even go as far to say he is the breath of fresh air Hip Hop enthusiasts like me needed.
In early May, KOTA The Friend released Foto, and with just one listen, I became a fan. Seriously, it reminded me of the time I first heard The Cool by Lupe Fiasco. In the same direction, I had it on repeat from the time I first pressed play. I was mind-blown from the levels of creativity, poetic vision, and positive messages that floated throughout the album. On top of that, the Foto album is filled with head-nodding beats irresistible to not like. If you were wondering what KOTA sounds like, I would say he is a reflection of lyrical Hip-Hop. His storytelling, old-school flow, and interest in jazz and folk music makes his music golden.
KOTA: The Producer
Gifted with a melodic flow and creative vision, it’s no surprise KOTA sounds the way he sounds. At the age of 8, he excelled in a music program at his school as a trumpet player, and taught himself how to play the guitar and piano. Like many of us, KOTA juggled between two jobs in high school with the intent to build his own home studio. He explored cinematography at nineteen, which would explain why his music videos are always outside of the box. Wait, did I mention he self-produced the entire Foto album?
Revealing his inspiration in a XXL interview, you can get a glimpse of his production style:
“I taught myself piano, guitar and bass guitar, which put me in the perfect position to produce my own music. My music became a fusion of Jay Z, Nas, Jimi Hendrix, A Tribe Called Quest, D’Angelo, Bob Dylan, Ingrid Michaelson and more. I used all that I learned from rock, hip-hop, soul and folk music to create a unique sound that I never really strayed from.”
Kota: The Lyricist
I remember first noticing Kota, the Brooklyn-born rapper and producer on Instagram. I came across a random visual clip that artistically blew my mind. In this promo, the camera zoomed into his face as he was telling a story. His digital marketing skills are genius if he came up with this concept by himself, my eyes were glued to the screen. I became eager to hear more of his music and his storytelling.
“I wanna show people there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. On top of that, I want to hold the light. I’ve been through a lot, we’ve been through a lot, but it’s always gonna be okay.
Though Kota has been out for years with his past projects, Palm Tree Liquor, Paloma Beach, and Anything, I think more people will discover him in 2019. With over 100,000+ listeners on Spotify alone, his music sends positive messages and tells stories that needs to be heard especially to younger generations. “I’m trying to give people, kind of, a map to get out of depression,” KOTA stated in a DJ Booth interview.
In one of the singles from the new album, “Chicago Diner,” see his cinematic vision here:
Kota frequently added random interludes throughout the album using his family members’ narration, like his grandpa, uncle, and father. I literally listen to the song, “Hollywood” every day. Besides the Kid Cudi-like beat and vibe, the chorus repeats the line, ‘If everybody think I’m Hollywood I don’t give a f*ck,’ which is so relatable. In life, as you move on to bigger and better things you evolve, and the people around you may find it difficult to accept your growth. But, whose life is it anyway?
My other favorite track off Foto has to be “Church.” The overall flow and production he created deserves a listen. In the song, “For Colored Boys,” the introductory jazz music that comes on as soon as you press play gave me goosebumps. The title for the song alone tells you what type of visionary messages KOTA delivers in his music.
Check out another visual with a dope concept for the single, “For Colored Boys” below:
Like Nas, Kendrick, Lupe, or J Cole, KOTA is a gem. His flow, methodical lyrics, and head-bopping beats really speak to me on levels most artists don’t. KOTA the Friend creatively produces his own music and visuals that show his altruistic and free-spirited style. Foto is made available on all major streaming services. Give it a listen and tell us your favorite track!
My favorite tracks: “Hollywood”, “For Colored Boys,” and “Church.”
Sources used: Spotify, Youtube, lastfm, XXL, and photo credit: Geoff Levy