“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.”