(Photo by Ragan Henderson)
Hailing from Brooklyn, NY, KOTA the Friend has found his specialty in spitting smooth melodic raps over playful, relaxed instrumentals. Born in 1992, Kota grew up as a first-hand witness to the rapidly evolving hip-hop and R&B scene blossoming within NYC. Drawing energy from his musically experimental childhood, Kota began playing the trumpet at 8 years old which has come to serve as the foundation for his modern jazz influenced style of rap. KOTA’s captivating sound has gained a significant following in New York and Los Angeles thanks to his effortless ability to intertwine elements from 90’s rap and modern jazz. These themes have remained constant throughout his discography.
Kota busted out on the music scene in 2017* and immediately stood out from a sea of uninspired autotuned rappers due to his alternative and uplifting vibe, layered by his creative vocals and jazz-focused beats.
KOTA’s most refreshing aspect to his sound is his versatility -- his tracks can slap while cruising on a sunny day with the homies but can also be listened into far deeper for moments of solo, thoughtful reflection. KOTA expertly weaves smart social commentary into hard-hitting bars over dizzying and powerful brass led instrumentals, but somehow manages to not do the most. While KOTA balances diverse thinking with a wide variety of sounds masterfully, most modern rappers’ verge on the side of minimalism in both directions to avoid polarizing their audience. Juggling wisdom with commercialism is a tall task, but has become crucial to an artist’s mainstream success. Too far towards wisdom and you end up sounding like Joyner Lucas, while too much commercialism results in something like Culture II.
Paying caution to the tale of Icarus, Kota lets his sharp mind attack through his rhymes while honoring his humble roots. Kota’s consistently groovy vibes tempered by his Brooklyn street smarts are undeniably intoxicating, and from bumping his entire discography so far, I can say with confidence he’s good for it.
Here's an Introduction to the artist KOTA the Friend:
1. “B.Q.E. (Feat. Joey Bada$$ & Bas)”, EVERYTHING
2. “Hollywood”, FOTO
3. “Summerhouse”, EVERYTHING
4. “Good”, Anything.
5. “Lawn Chair”, Lawn Chair
*Kota debuted in 2017 with “Lawn Chair”.
6. “Church”, FOTO
Kota reflects on his religious upbringing as a Jehovah’s Witness over a sample of Tobi Lou’s “Darlin”.
7. “Boat to Bermuda” by nosuits & KOTA the Friend, Boat to Bermuda
8. “Mi Casa”, EVERYTHING
9. “Colorado”, Colorado
10. “For Colored Boys”, FOTO
Kota gives colored boys a primer on the way the world really is. “For Colored Boys” is easily my personal favorite of Kota’s discography, and seems to become increasingly more relevant each day as we continue to witness injustices towards people of color. Kota has established himself as incredibly capable of creating a vibe, but songs like “For Colored Boys” show there is real substance behind the verses. Kota’s music speaks, all you have to do is listen.