Last week, Brooklyn rapper Kota the Friend and Boston producer Statik Selektah teamed up for their first-ever collaborative effort with To Kill a Sunrise. With Kota finally garnering support from an all-time great producer, will the two’s skills be able to culminate into hip hop’s next great rapper/producer duo?
Through ten tracks and 34 minutes of run time, Kota’s relaxed delivery and chilled storytelling continue to showcase him as one of the game’s most prominent lyricists. From the triumphant intro “Wolves” to the reminiscent finale “Sunset,” the relaxed approach the 28-year-old brings to each song can soothe the tensest of stories. When it comes to this vocal demeanor, it ends up working as both a gift and a curse on this LP as, on the surface, it blends well with Statik’s masterful loops, but Kota’s delivery can get redundant, and so does his subject matter here. Moments like “What ya Sayin'”, “Day Glow,” and “Sunrise” suffer from a similar issue that some of the tracks on Benny the Butcher’s The Plugs I Met 2 did, which is that these stories mesh together and fail to really stick out from one another both in their structure and tone. Still, this doesn’t make the experience bad by any means, it’s just making us crave for Kota to add a new element to his arsenal before it’s too late. On the positive side of the spectrum, many of the tracks still manage to rightfully depict the lyrical precision and vocal mastery Kota has been using to gain support for half a decade at this point. The pinnacle of this is on the heart-wrenching “Live & Direct’,” which focuses on Kota’s family life and how he’s learned to combat toxic situations. Some of the earlier cuts like “Hate” and “The Cold” also stand out as some of the more impressive showings due to the Brooklyn native’s stronger microphone presence and challenging songwriting. While Kota the Friend doesn’t make any significant leaps as an artist, he yet again is able to make his distinct style successfully work.
Behind the boards, Statik Selektah proves why he is one of the most respected producers of all time. In an experience where Kota’s performance may tire listeners out at times, the Boston beatmaker composes some of the most intricate loops I’ve heard in the entire year. In typical Statik fashion, he puts a distinct sample or instrument within each track and builds around this component till it’s perfected. Whether it’s the dramatic flutes on “Wolves” or the simple windchimes on “Go Now,” the 39-year-old veteran manages to make the most profound soundscapes out of the simplest assets. The range of emotions conveyed through this formula is another one of the mindboggling qualities of Statik’s genius. From the somber “What ya Sayin'” to the vibrant “Sunset,” the Boston native is able to embed so much power and weight into these relatively simple instrumentals. In an era where most producers aim to make the most complex scores possible, the minimalistic approach Statik Selektah utilizes and runs with proves why he’s one of the best curators in hip hop’s near 50-year history.
In conclusion, To Kill a Sunrise is a good rapper/producer collaboration that serves as another solid entry in both Kota and Statik’s catalog. While Statik Selektah was definitely the star of the project, the way Kota bounces off his beautiful beats is what makes this album so enjoyable in the first place. Going forward, I’m sure Statik Selektah will only keep his hot streak going, but as for Kota the Friend, it’s at the point where he needs to step out of his shell and improve on his skills if he wants to ever become anything more than your average modern-day poet.
- Statik Selektah keeps his hot streak going
- Kota’s storytelling is solid as usual
- Great atmosphere
- Kota’s style is starting to feel a little bland and repetitive
- Nothing groundbreaking is going on
Written and Reviewed by: Mr. Fantastic, owner and founder of Fantastic Hip Hop