Kota the Friend is a 28-year-old rapper from Brooklyn, New York. Last weekend, he released the second installment of his Lyrics To GO series, Lyrics To GO, Vol. 2. Being ten songs and nearly the exact same length as its predecessor, will the slight improvements Kota showed on his prior LP Everything be able to make this 15-minute project his most memorable yet?
While the format of this series doesn’t allow for much creative liberty, Kota does his best at showing off his bag of tricks. One crucial element to note going in is that each one of these tracks is super brief. Every single song contains a lone verse, and there’s also not a single hook either. This formula defies the standards that nearly all modern hip hop records follow, but this is not a bad thing. What this ultimately does, is give the project a distinct feature that no MC is even trying to match. While some would use this setup to put together a disjointed cash grab, the 28-year-old uses it to paint ten distinct lyrical paintings. The storytelling display seen on “Clinton Hill” does a splendid job of setting the tone with its reflective tale focusing on both the positive and negative side of Kota’s life. Building on this, everything from the extremely paranoid “Luke Cage” to the empowering “Flowers” does its best to show off the beauty within this gifted wordsmith’s songwriting. On the point of songwriting, the Friend’s topical weariness comes full circle here as he aligns nearly every record with a powerful life lesson. “200 Dollars” was one of the more memorable of these teachings due to the stated ideas focusing on the value of how spiritual wealth is more important than financial affluence. Cuts like “Apologies,” “Living Room,” and “Emotionally Dumb” are also very admirable as they spin basic ideas into thought-provoking poems. The emotionally delivered “Broken” was the definite standout in this group due to its compelling ideas revolving around perseverance and mental toughness. Out of all these episodes of lyrical mastery, “Santa Barbara” was the pinnacle of Kota’s craftsmanship as he layers this one and a half minute ballad’s relaxing bars about a tropical vacation with some dark references alluding to his inner depression and suicidal thoughts. Overall, the amount of thought that went into writing every bar on this project is quite commendable and a clear statement that Kota the Friend has only taken another step forward.
Opposed to spending thousands of dollars on professionally made instrumentals, Kota decided to go on YouTube and type in “Kota the Friend type beat”. Falling in love with what he heard, he chose to use ten beats from amateur producers GC Beats and André Mariette instead of going through the tedious process most artists of his magnitude go through. While the crispiness and vibrancy within these sonic showcases indeed resemble the style Kota’s been using on his past few records, there’s really nothing to make any of these loops feel distinct from one another. In all honesty, most of these tracks feel like carbon copies as they follow the exact same formula of implementing a soft piano melody and then building on it with some of the most generic drum patterns possible. While the soundscape is passable in terms of hip hop’s current sonic standards, you would think an LP of this caliber would put some more creativity into one of its most defining factors.
Walking away from Lyrics To GO, Vol. 2, and I’m honestly impressed by how enjoyable it was. Outside of the painfully generic production, the 15-minute experience does a fantastic job emphasizing the importance of technical lyricism in a day and age where it is often disregarded. Going forward, Kota the Friend continues to make improvements, and at the rate, he’s going, I’m sure his next major release will be amongst his best!
- Great lyrical display
- The messages and ideology attached to each song adds loads of depth
- Kota, the Friend continues to sharpen his pen game
- Passable but boring production
- With its short length and lack of cohesion, the ceiling for a project like this is not that high
Written by: Marc Dator
Scored and edited by: Marc Dator founder and owner of Fantastic Hip Hop