For me, Kota the Friend was an acquired taste. Sometimes I feel as if the search for new artists is like watching a big pissing contest between a bunch of musicians hell bent on proving they have what it takes, but Kota doesn’t fit into this category at all. In fact, Kota strikes me as an artist who couldn’t give less of a shit about the glamour and the glitz – see his recent tweet. Perhaps this stay-in-your-lane mentality is the reason why it took me so long to appreciate his music: humility doesn’t exactly attract attention like arrogance does.
Every project of Kota’s is a methodically planned-out endeavor. By single-handedly managing the production, songwriting and direction of each release, Kota is able to project his deepest thoughts into the world with untarnished clarity. Unsurprisingly, he remains independent. In the song “Berlin,” we can see Kota’s apprehensions toward the industry and just how much he values controlling his narrative:
Labels tryna fly me out and hit me with a large check Bad loans, that's shit I don't wanna get involved with Told them that I want a half a mil', non-refundable One album, and a couple singles, if I fuck with you
These lines also introduce the first aspect of Kota’s worldview which separates him from the rest: his view of money is incredibly pragmatic. Kota’s interest in 401k’s over foreign cars reflects an innate maturity well beyond his 27 years. While flexing Ferraris and Wraiths is a staple in hip-hop culture, Kota brags about “hopping in a Subaru sport” (a car currently sitting in my garage) in the song “Lazy River.”
Another topic unique to Kota’s music is the heavy emphasis on family values. His kids are, without question, a source of immense pride for Kota and lines such as “I don’t be tourin’ ’cause I’m makin’ sure my kids know me” clearly show where his priorities lie. In the greater context of hip-hop’s selfish nature, it’s almost jarring to hear such wholesome content. Speaking of one’s children in their music is strangely uncommon (seriously, try to think of a few examples) and displaying this amount of love and affection is something done only by Kota the Friend.
Real estate and business shit, boy, that's the key plan By the time you ten, you gon' know enough to take all these meetings alone And you gon' speak on my behalf, 'cause you big smart And over all of that you got a big heart
- Retirement Plan
Kota’s music is the equivalent of ice cream, sweatpants and Sunday morning cartoons. With self-care predominant subject matter and quaint, polished production, Kota offers a sense of zen tranquility which I have yet to see elsewhere. This alone distinguishes him in a class of his own.
Listen to “Hollywood” (my personal favourite) here: