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Organic As F***: Meet Kota The Friend

“I’m appreciating everything that’s happening … I appreciate this very moment.”–Kota The Friend If you haven’t yet heard of Kota…

“I’m appreciating everything that’s happening … I appreciate this very moment.”–Kota The Friend

If you haven’t yet heard of Kota The Friend, you can be forgiven. After all, his debut release Palm Tree Liquor is just over a year old; he’s the equivalent of discovering a new show right as the second season premiere. That second in this case is his new EP Paloma Beach, which has been heralded by all who have come across it. The rapper’s sound is jazzy and as New York, as it gets — without overtly mimicking the golden era — and he has this commanding, yet relaxed tone that makes his music a pleasure to digest.

As of late, he’s been picking up a ton of steam — culminating in a 2017 A3C mainstage performance on a bill that included Nas. A one-time cinematographer (having worked on videos for acts like Asher Roth and Blu), one of the most intriguing about him is his visual aura. “Every visual that you’ve ever seen was — conceptually — something that I cooked up,” Kota told AAHH. “Most of the time, I just prop up my camera, and I just record a lot of what you see … one hundred percent of that is me.”

The conceptual consistency is especially apparent in his Lyrics To Go series — beginning with episode 3 — which features him (often solo) staring directly at the camera, as it slowly closes in, while the lyrics are displayed along the bottom. In the episodes that feature others, they either remain unaware or also just stare hauntingly into the camera. It’s an insanely intimate visual treatment that is adding to his overall schtick. He’s an odd mixture of Chance The Rapper, Isaiah Rashad, and (regarding his overall peaceful likeability) Lil B; he’s easy to become a big fan of.

“I feel like it’s just the musical content and the lyrical content,” he says when asked what he thinks make him stand out. “I feel like I’m saying a lot of stuff that people aren’t saying … I’m just being really honest and digging deep into who I am. It’s just a reflecting style.” This is the mantra of his new project, which navigates themes rooted in mental health. “I’m reflecting on my life, and I’m trying to dig deeper than anybody has ever done, so that’s kind of what I’m going for. At the same time, I’m trying to bring back this jazzy feel to the music, well, to Hip-Hop [really]. I’m trying to bring a jazzy feel to the mainstream.”

Kota is independent — like really independent. Not “fake indie” a phenomenon that seems to be all the rage right now; but, that doesn’t mean he won’t entertain the idea of branching out to a major. “I’m willing to do whatever is best for my career right now — and for my team,” he says. “It’s never just my decision but we are trying to figure out what’s good for us right now and the indie route is allowing us to do a lot of things and have a lot of freedom. If a label came along with a deal and a good opportunity, though, we would take it.”

His most recent releases have been the trilogy of visuals for “Her,” which is a song that appeared on his debut. “I just decided to bring it back and give it some new life; I feel like there are a lot of songs on the old project that didn’t get a lot of love because I didn’t have a lot of popularity at the time. So, I’m trying to breathe new life into that project as well as like give shine to the new project.”

While he has aspirations of one day reigniting his video production work, he’s keeping to his frenzied pace of music — in fact, he was speaking to us from the studio while in Atlanta [for A3C].

Mostly, he’s keeping active — and his love of what he’s doing is shining through. “I’m enjoying the ride. I’m enjoying where I’m at right now, [because] I know in a couple of years it’s not going to be the same … it’s going to be a completely different situation cause the way that we’re grinding is insane. There are a lot of people that are waking up, and I’m just happy to be exactly where I’m at right now.”

Riley here — father, artist, videographer, professional writer and SERIOUS hip-hop head. I'm a member of the Universal Zulu Nation, and I think everything is better on vinyl. Add me on Twitter! @specialdesigns
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This Week’s ‘On The Cusp’ Playlist

On The Cusp is a living playlist dedicated to showcasing the buzzing new music on our radar — as curated…

On The Cusp is a living playlist dedicated to showcasing the buzzing new music on our radar — as curated by our writer Riley Wallace. For all inquiries and submissions, hit up the playlist’s official Twitter feed.

This week’s cover artist is Chris Allen.

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Mark Steele “It’s Been A Minute” Album Is Almost Here

Preparing for his It’s Been a Minute album, Mark Steele, in great spirits, opened up in our interview about change…

Preparing for his It’s Been a Minute album, Mark Steele, in great spirits, opened up in our interview about change leading to new beginnings in his life. “I’m at a crossroad right now. I feel this energy of something manifesting,” Steele tells Above Average Hip-Hop. “I’ve never felt this close. It’s such a dynamic too, I still go through everyday struggles just like the next person.” With change appearing in the MC’s life, he is more in tuned with who he is, where he is headed without forgetting where it all started. Durham, North Carolina.

Steele was born and raised in Durham where he grew up fast witnessing a lot. “We’re kind of like a melting pot. We get influenced by everybody because a lot of people come down here for an easier way of living,” Steele notes. “I think I’m a great representation of what Durham is: multilayered.” Steele embraces sounds from New York, Philly, Atlanta, and DMV area. With hip-hop adapting to each new generation, it’s a blessing to hear real lyrics every chance you get. Steele also influenced by hip-hop’s “golden age,” the 90s rap era, where “everything lyrical” is major to him. “I’m fearless with creating records and not really caring what’s popular a lot. I’m bringing lyrics,” notes Steele. “I’m one of those rare people, a trendsetter.”

The MC started rapping in a duo group called Mic & Rep with his friend in high school. During his college years at North Carolina Central University, he met record producer and executive, 9th wonder, who later on becomes his mentor. From that point, his solo career began.

“My music has substance, it’s conceptual.” Whether it’s good or bad I can create some type of art from it, I know that I’m good.”

Best known for his ESPN Sports Center anthem “Greatness,” Steele has been working none stop to become a leader of hip-hop’s new generation. Coming off his Before A Minute mixtape hosted by DJ Wade Banner serves as a prelude to Steele’s forthcoming album It’s Been A Minute. “This is the best thing I ever done in life, I can’t wait to give it to the people,” notes Steele. The rapper doesn’t have to wait much longer, this Friday (Oct.12) we’ll be able to hear his anticipated project where he shows vulnerability and honesty. “A lot of hidden messages in the album. You’re going to have to dissect it a couple of times. It’ll be from how the record was structure, topics, lyrics, and transitions,” he says.

With limited features on the new album, Steele managed to get No Malice. Steele tells me they share mutual producers and it was “the grace of God” to get No Malice on his album. With everything leading up, he’s happy where he is and excited for what’s to come. He shows the definition of hard work and where it can lead you, but importantly how he takes one step at of time.

“Have you ever been so stressed and so blessed in the same breath? That’s exactly where I’m at right now. It’s an interesting period and I’m just enjoying the moment.”

Towards the end of our conversation, Steele shares his last words. “For anyone that’s trying to pursue anything. Doctor, lawyer, artist, etc. The biggest keys: keeping god first, putting in the work, and lastly, don’t give up.”

Mark Steele is also co-headlining his It’s Been a Minute album release concert at Drom in New York City alongside No Malice on Friday, October 12th. Purchase your tickets here: https://goo.gl/BgnXD2

Get familiar with Mark Steele. Check out his latest music video for “Grace of God” featuring No Malice.

 

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Diplomats Announce “Diplomatic Ties” Album Dropping Thanksgiving Day

Fans of the Diplomats have had dreams both built up and destroyed over the years as squabbles and disagreements (most…

Fans of the Diplomats have had dreams both built up and destroyed over the years as squabbles and disagreements (most notably between Jim Jones and Cam’ron) have prevented a proper reunion (outside of a few showsand follow up to 2004’s Diplomatic Immunity 2 LP. After teasing a long-awaited project back in September, it appears the project now has a title and official release date.

As the group’s set at A3C in Atlanta drew to a close, Jim Jones made the announcement fans had been waiting for.

“On Thanksgiving, there will be a Diplomat album dropping,” exclaimed Jim Jones with his arm draped over Freeky Zeeky’s shoulder. “It’s called Diplomatic Ties, and the documentary will be out a week after that.”

“We havin’ some fun,” he added. “We been in the studio … we appreciate all the love.”

Jones first shared the new project three weeks ago, posting a photo an Instagram of the tracklist — which is a strictly Dipset affair, except for a lone feature from XO spitter Belly. A final tracklist and official artwork have yet to be revealed.

https://www.instagram.com/p/Bnkxig9Ao7S/?utm_source=ig_web_button_share_sheet

Tentative tracklist for Diplomatic Ties, is below.

1. “Intro” featuring Juelz Santana
2. “Live Forever” featuring Jim Jones and Cam’ron
3. “Sauce Boss” featuring Jim Jones and Juelz Santana
4. “On God” featuring Juelz Santana, Jim Jones and Belly
5. “Big Deal” featuring Cam’ron and Jim Jones
6. “Oh Lord” featuring Cam’ron and Jim Jones
7. “Celebrating Life” featuring Juelz Santana and Jim Jones
8. “By Any Means” featuring Juelz Santana and Jim Jones
9. “Sets Back” featuring Cam’ron and Jim Jones

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Diplomats Announce “Diplomatic Ties” Album Dropping Thanksgiving Day

Fans of the Diplomats have had dreams both built up and destroyed over the years as squabbles and disagreements (most…

Fans of the Diplomats have had dreams both built up and destroyed over the years as squabbles and disagreements (most notably between Jim Jones and Cam’ron) have prevented a proper reunion (outside of a few showsand follow up to 2004’s Diplomatic Immunity 2 LP. After teasing a long-awaited project back in September, it appears the project now has a title and official release date.

As the group’s set at A3C in Atlanta drew to a close, Jim Jones made the announcement fans had been waiting for.

“On Thanksgiving, there will be a Diplomat album dropping,” exclaimed Jim Jones with his arm draped over Freeky Zeeky’s shoulder. “It’s called Diplomatic Ties, and the documentary will be out a week after that.”

“We havin’ some fun,” he added. “We been in the studio … we appreciate all the love.”

Jones first shared the new project three weeks ago, posting a photo an Instagram of the tracklist — which is a strictly Dipset affair, except for a lone feature from XO spitter Belly. A final tracklist and official artwork have yet to be revealed.

https://www.instagram.com/p/Bnkxig9Ao7S/?utm_source=ig_web_button_share_sheet

Tentative tracklist for Diplomatic Ties, is below.

1. “Intro” featuring Juelz Santana
2. “Live Forever” featuring Jim Jones and Cam’ron
3. “Sauce Boss” featuring Jim Jones and Juelz Santana
4. “On God” featuring Juelz Santana, Jim Jones and Belly
5. “Big Deal” featuring Cam’ron and Jim Jones
6. “Oh Lord” featuring Cam’ron and Jim Jones
7. “Celebrating Life” featuring Juelz Santana and Jim Jones
8. “By Any Means” featuring Juelz Santana and Jim Jones
9. “Sets Back” featuring Cam’ron and Jim Jones

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Katti Supreme Has His Eye On The Prize

There’s no reason not to aim for the top in this industry — just ask North Carolina rapper Katti Supreme....

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