Let It Shine with Kotic Couture: An Interview about Transcendent and Late to the Party

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Kotic Couture is a brilliant artist that triumphantly embraces her story and unapologetically presents her best self to the world with music. Through her sound, Kotic recounts her experience as a transgender person of color, highlighting both the trauma and beauty associated with her identity. Above all, Couture aims to write music that is a pure reflection of herself, acting as a time capsule of where she is in her life. 

I had the great opportunity to have a chat with Kotic where we discussed her city, upbringing, latest project, future, and journey with music & identity.

Kotic Couture grew up in the rural Eastern Shores of Maryland, but it is in Baltimore where she really became herself. Couture describes how it wasn’t easy to be queer at a young age in her environment, but with music, Kotic felt free to be her flashiest self and simply leave her art up for interpretation. 

Queerness, while at times alienating, was one of the key factors that fueled Kotic to discover and develop her musical talents. Couture recounts how, with a lack of potential dating prospects and queer social outlets, pouring her teenage energy into music gave her a way to stay busy and not feel hidden. Music became a connection between Kotic and others at a time when her queerness was exiling. Soon enough, music became the thing that just came easy to put her all into. 

With a newfound way to be loud and open, Kotic’s career blossomed. Most recently, Couture dropped Late to the Party, a 11-song, 29-minute project. Late to the Party acts as Couture’s most skillful, electrifying, and refined project to date, and discussing the record was the central focus of our interview. The album portrays Kotic’s journey, her brilliance, and, perhaps most obviously, her love for Baltimore. 

As an ode to Charm City and Couture’s early work in broadcasting, Late to the Party kicks off with a hosted introduction from DJ AngelBaby, a longtime radio staple for Eastern shore listeners. Couture wanted people from her region to feel welcomed into the album by an iconic and familiar voice, and no vocals could complete that task better than DJ AngelBaby’s. Originally, Kotic toyed with the idea of having the album fully hosted by the DJ, as was customary with many projects of the mixtape era, but Angelbaby’s hype carries throughout the record without needing to be reintroduced. 

“DJ Angelbaby Intro” lets the listener know that this project was crafted with Kotic’s influences and community in mind, and the next song continues the theme. “The Makings,” my personal highlight of the project, is a self-produced track that pays homage to Kotic’s teenage self and the strength that she didn’t know she had at the time. 

The song, laid over a stripped-back Pharrell and Darkchild inspired beat, displays Couture confidently speaking about her talent. In the chorus, Kotic passionately carries herself with enough assurance to convince anyone that she is indeed a “future classic, legend, [and] the truth.” “The Makings” is influenced by the conviction of MIA and Solange, the funk of Outcast, and the spirit of Missy Elliot. 

Pinnacle to Kotic Cotoure’s musical style is the centering of fun, partying, and love. Much of Couture’s prior work leans into a clubby vibe more than Late to the Party does, but that does not mean that the new record lacks fantastic party songs. “Wit Me” is the first of these fun-forward songs, and with a strong feature verse from 3SIDEGOOF, the track is a perfect backdrop to puff and drive to. Kotic describes how, as Black trans stories are often rooted in trauma, it’s important to make art that allows the immense amount of light and energy possessed by the Black trans community to shine. 

The last recorded song for the project, “83 Souf,” just barely made it through tryouts for Late to the Party. Around the time of the mixing and mastering of the album, Kotic got a hook caught in her head, and after a day of living with this earworm, Couture knew she needed to come up with more to round off the song.

Unfortunately, at this moment, additional creativity was at a low-point with photoshoots, cover art, and mastering taking most of Kotic’s energy. Nonetheless, Kotic persisted, crafting a beat and putting the track on the album when many advised otherwise. “83 Souf” is a chance for Couture to reflect on her journey. Today, Kotic is glad she included the track, adding that it is one of the best received songs when played live. 

Another track that has garnered love amongst Kotic Couture fans is “Undacover,” a party track that originally started out as a joke. Couture described how she often has to deal with men that don’t like to publicly date her, but instead of letting that discomfort take over the track, Kotic reclaims the shame from her partners to flip the script. With a bumpingly percussive beat, this clubby record builds to highlight Kotic’s sexy energy, letting embarrassed partners know that actually they’re just not fabulous enough to be with her.

“Roberts Have Hearts” follows, providing a chance for Kotic Couture to express her frustrations with a broken and exploitative capitalist system. The verses are composed of numerous tensely blunt lines, most notable to me being one that leads into the first chorus. 

“Tears of a struggle that is silenced with power, wear us down with lower wages and maximum hours.” 

Originally starting out as a longer, two-sided track, “Changes” and “Sunset” mark a pace change in the album, allowing Kotic to deliver an introspective sound for the back-half of the project. Helping showcase Kotic’s verses, Chrissy J provides magical choruses on both tracks alongside downtempo beats. Chrissy first reveals that “everything changes when you open your eyes” and proceeds to remind us that everything rises and falls, just like the sunset. 

Late to the Party then moves into “Shadows (feat. :3lon & Wuhryn Dumas),” providing Kotic Couture the space to discuss family, roots, and generally, love for all. Almost uncomfortably solemn in delivery, Kotic pulls listeners in with hard-hitting verses before the features resolve the tension with a gorgeously caroled chorus. Acting as a tribute to those who helped guide and support her throughout her life, Couture pensively thanks her family, although this is not the only gratitude that Kotic expresses on the project.

“Libations” was written as the result of Kotic’s attendance of a Say Her Name rally when she watched Baltimore’s Amourous Ebony perform a pouring of libations ceremony for ancestors and community members who have passed. Wanting to tell the story of her father, Couture extended her grief and appreciation to celebrate all of the things that we pour into the world. As one of her favorite songs on the project, Kotic sat with “Libations” for multiple years, but after making the decision to put the music out to the world, Couture is grateful for sharing deep emotions with connected fans.

Kotic Couture wanted to close out Late to the Party by not only challenging herself in the outro structure, but also by challenging the fans of her work. Couture described her desire to present the duality of her experience on this song. This track exquisitely references the dichotomy between the bright and colorful energy that Kotic presents and the somber aspects of her experience, specifically in regards to loss. “Til the End,” as the name denotes, is Kotic’s final chance to share her outlook and story with the world. 

While rooted in the emotional affliction that has impacted her life, “Til the End” is an encouraging finale to this well-rounded project. In challenging herself to write a song without hooks or a chorus, Couture leaves the listener with a challenge of their own: to remember their strength. 

“From fight to fight, they might not recognize the light / But please don’t dim your wattage, expansion come with the knowledge” 

Late to the Party was crafted by a small team, with Kotic Couture making four or so of the beats and additional production efforts coming from Josh Karbon, GoodBoy, Mateyo, Drew Scott, and John Tyler. Recording was completed at Moosehouse and mixing & mastering was finished up by MobTown studios, all of which are Baltimore’s finest. It wasn’t just Kotic’s beats, verses, and influences that make this project scream “Baltimore!”; Late to the Party has Baltimore in its bones. 

Similar to how Kotic Couture continues to exceed expectations with each new project, my conversation with Couture provided more insight, inspiration, and gratitude than I could have foreseen. I appreciate Kotic Couture for sharing her experience with me, both through her music and her conversation.

Towards the end of our conversation, Couture expressed gratitude for the structure of the Transcendent fundraiser, describing how pride events and fundraisers often center the wrong people and are rooted in business-forward virtue signaling. While this gratitude provides assurance for the work that we are doing here at Hummingbird, it is really because of these wonderful trans musicians of color that such a fundraiser can succeed. It is not Hummingbird that should be thanked for centering the right artists; it is these exact artists that should be appreciated for being the perfect people to center. 

We hope to have you join us for Transcendent 2022 on Trans Day of Remembrance, November 20, at 6pm ET! Come listen to our amazing array of talents, and please consider donating to the Trans Women of Color Collective. Until November 30th, donations will be price matched, meaning that every dollar that you send through will go twice as far! 

Allow Kotic and I to leave you with the final words of the Late to the Party record. 

“The winning means more when you know how you got it, when you the heartbeat it’s no way you can stop it. / Made it to a legend from dreams of being a star, coming from where I’m from we don’t make it this far.”
– Kotic Couture, “Til the End”, Late to the Party

All the love <3,

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