Kota the Friend, “Everything” and Positivity in Hip-Hop

Kota the Friend is the most reliably pleasant voice in hip-hop, releasing album after album full of encouragement and down-to-earth advice for young people. He hasn’t submitted to industry pressure, staying independent on the road to creating soul music with his kind personality and mental health-conscious lyrics.

You’ll notice a Lil Kota feature late on the track list. This isn’t the first time his baby boy has been either credited or mentioned in his songs. A staple of Kota the Friend’s music over the last few years has been about fatherhood and the effort it takes to be a good one. This dedication along with his principled approach and advice to black youth makes him easily idolizable. 

Hopefully, the performance of this album helps him reach more hearts and minds. And at least to some extent, it’s happening. “Everybody” is set to be his best-performing album thus far, with several songs fit for the top of the hip-hop charts. The album’s bangers include “B.Q.E.” and “Long Beach,” amongst others.

The former, featuring Joey Bada$$ and Bas, has had listeners drooling since it was released in April, boasting a horn-tooting beat and a smooth melody dedicated to the Brooklyn-Queens highway. Joey and Bas hold their own with their guest verses, forming a trio we’ll hopefully hear more from in the future.

“Long Beach” might not perk ears with its features, but just might be the better track. With a rattling instrumental, danceable drums, and personable lyrics, it creates a friendly atmosphere ready-made for good times in the summer.

Another ear-tickling track comes later in the album — “Volvo” is exactly what you could expect from Kota. It’s a track about pulling up on people with friendliness in a humble whip. “Old head, I might pull up in the Volvo.” The drums on here are snappy and concise, but it’s a beat-type that gets a little old on the album. His production as a whole is unique and interesting, but it feels like he’s compensating for his oft-monotonous flow.

But even though he doesn’t change tone too often, he’s fairly dexterous in his ability to change speeds mid-verse, much like a Hummingbird (they’re the only species that can fly backwards). Good taste in production means most tracks don’t get stale — the snapping drums I mentioned earlier seem to be a crutch at points but are never overbearing.

And self-awareness is clearly a strength of his. A lesser rapper might try to muscle their way through an entire project without the help of others, but nine features over the 12-song project proves his willingness to share the stage.

Forming compounding roadblocks to success are his oft-stated independent status and the idea that positivity isn’t exactly an embraced quality in rap. Fans are more often cool with famous rappers that either dabble in or fully commit themselves to violence or drug abuse, but the pure positivity-type rappers often don’t receive the same support because perhaps America isn’t ready to see black people portrayed outside of this stereotypical lens. 

I’m not trying to align myself with the contingent claiming that hip-hop is a negative force for the culture — that couldn’t be further from the truth. It just feels like most rappers that come up on being positive and empowered are often pushed to the edges of the industry by one of two forces: big-wig executives or a majority white fanbase.

I write all this to give credit to Kota for finding success without compromising his talent or perspective. He’s laying the bricks for more artists to pop up in the future, spreading even more good will to.

So, when you find yourself debating whether or not you’re into “Everything,” think about that.  There’s nothing wrong with disliking someone for their flow or music — we all have valid taste — but make that the reason you don’t like him, instead of the fact that he’s just trying to spread positivity through his music and platform.

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