KOTA The Friend - Everything - What means Everything to you?
To be honest I haven't been looking forward to any project like KOTA The Friend’s latest one for a long time. Last Friday, May 22nd, he released his second studio album. The unplanned project arose more from a mood, or rather from a flow.
The 27 year-old rapper is born and raised in Brooklyn, New York City. At a young age he was exposed to hip hop, R&B, Jazz and Soul music during the infamous 90's era. By the time young KOTA was 8 years old he joined his schools music program and excelled as a trumpet player. In high school KOTA was the leader of the trumpet section while teaching himself to play the guitar and piano. During this time he also picked up two weekend jobs to build a home studio where he would record hip hop tracks as well as folk songs that were accompanied by his guitar playing.
During his High School days he became interested in a plethora of different artists and bands like The Beatles, J Dilla, Pink Floyd, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan and countless other acts. This inspired KOTA to start a band that would put on local showcases in the Brooklyn area that banded many aspiring artists together during this time. Some of those acts include Phony Ppl, Dyme-A-Duzin, Capital Steez formerly known as Jay Steez and many others.
During his college days KOTA was introduced to an R&B singer and a quirky rapper and started a hiphop/neo soul group named Nappy Hair. They would go on to play venues like The Knitting Factory and open up for Slum Village. After a year of college KOTA returned home to focus more on music. Dealing with deep depression and a lack of income he decided that although he didn't want a 9 to 5 job he needed money to sustain himself. At 19 years old he decided to pick up cinematography being that a lot of his artistic friends needed the service and he could feed that need if he were to excel at the craft.
In 2016 and 2017 he published his first EPs Palm Tree Liquor and Paloma Beach. This was followed by projects like Anything and his debut album Foto. The latter was celebrated with 19 tracks. Foto shows KOTA at his most laid back, most vulnerable, most inspiring side. The message is loud and clear: the album is various snapshots of his life, an endearing invitation to the mind and mood of the NYC MC. At the beginning of the year he released Lyrics to Go, Vol. 1. A collection of lyrical thoughts that forms an EP as snippets.
And now our friend KOTA blesses us with his next studio album Everything. He said: “Everything is that place. Everything is the summer house on a beach with all your friends, everybody can visit everybody, breakfast is always cooked in the morning, and the beers are always accessible”. And the rapper continued: “So this album, I'm pretty much talking about all the things that I want, what means everything to me, what's important to me, and what I put before everything else. We have other people on the album - fans, actors, and artists - just talking about what means everything to them on the interludes.”
And that is exactly how it is. It's a pretty welcoming, easy going sound. You have no choice but to vibe. It reminds me a lot of Chance The Rapper's Coloring Book from 2016. Well, only with less Bible and God. The vibe is the same and just puts you in a good mood. It’s reminiscent of light summer days with friends or someone special. When you lived in the day. And let's be honest! Don't we all need exactly THAT right now ?!
Let us first start with the not so successful songs on the project: easy, there are none. All songs have a solid base of summery funky beats, catchy lyrics and positivity. I mean, who doesn't like to hear “thank your mom 'cause you so damn fine”?
I will tell her, my friend. No biggie.
One of my favorites is definitely B.Q.E that’s also the banger of the album. Especially through the features that are none other than the NYC giants Bas and Joey Bada$$. Reason enough to celebrate the track. PERIODT.
And of course Long Beach with New York's Hello O’Shay and Chicago-based artist Alex Banin. Simply a summery upbeat track that has KOTA reminiscing on time spent in Long Beach, California with his girl. Definitely another banger. My favorite feature on the album is Morocco, KOTA teams up with Chicago rapper tobi lou for an upbeat bop about making money, minding your business, and enjoying life. Tobi Lou is a Nigeria born, Chicago raised rapper, singer, and producer. Lou is signed with the label ARTCLUB lNTL. His discography includes three 2018 EP's and his 2019 mixtape Live on Ice, as well as many other singles released as early as 2016. Tobi is totally killing the second verse. I really enjoy his way to rap because his lyrics strike the perfect balance between real life and humor. "Got a Spanish bitch and she love to make me tacos" I'm not Spanish but I would for sure make you tacos tho.
KOTA produced, wrote and mixed this album almost entirely by himself. Everything has an underlying theme about asking, what means everything to you? With the help of friends like actors, Lupita Nyong’o and Lakeith Stanfield songs end with addressing the question. In the opening track, KOTA raps “I wear my heart on my wrist” giving a sense of how open this album will be. Compared to Foto. He reflects on what's important to him, drops knowledge of being independent, and loving his family, and staying true to himself.
All in all, the album has a good narrative structure and gives the listener the airy Sunday-like feeling.