Let’s be honest, the radio has been taken over by mostly southern acts and Drake and it has led to many discussions about New York radio not supporting New York acts. If that’s the case, us blogs especially the ones based out of New York have to put on for our city and give exposure to those artists that the radio looks over every day.
With that being said, New York is seeing a resurgence of artists such as Desiigner, Young M.A., Dave East, Westside Gunn, Conway, Don Q, A Boogie and more breaking into the mainstream and we have tons of up-and-coming acts that are making their voices heard.
Brooklyn has long been the home of legendary rappers and it continues to pump out new acts everyday, all with different sounds. One such artist who is following the blueprint left before him is Brooklyn’s own, Kota The Friend. The Clinton Hill rapper may be unfamiliar to you but he is quickly making a name for himself and is already building a strong following.
The passion for music has been something that has always lived inside of Kota. As early as the age of 7, he was freestyling over instrumentals, recording himself on old tape recorders. Since writing his first rhyme which was over Jay-Z’s “In My Lifetime” beat, he knew that he was nice.
Influenced by the likes of Nas, Tupac, Ja Rule, Biggie, Jay and The Fugees, the Brooklyn rapper is a true student of the game; and having some, and you can hear it in his music. After spending the past 16 years perfecting his skills, Kota released his debut project Palm Tree Liquor. The 9 track EP which featured west coast spitter Blue, was 95% produced by him, a skill that he picked up while attending college.
The project showcases the 23-year old’s effortless and laid back flow. His music has a very chill vibe to it with beats that aren’t too busy allowing you to get immersed in his rhymes and hear every word. With topics ranging from depression, love, alcoholism, dealing with loneliness and just coming to term with one’s demons, it’s very relatable.
Since the release of his project, Kota’s buzz has continued to grow and he has received coverage from outlets such as Pigeons and Planes, XXL, Fader, The Source, Village Voice, Hypebeast, Billboard and more. He’s now hard at work on his anticipated follow-up with the first single “Like Waters” recently being premiered on Ebro Darden’s Beats1 Radio Show. Kota The Friend is a voice that New York needs and you should start paying attention.
Learn more about Kota and his come up in the interview below and check out his debut project Palm Tree Liquor as well.
1. You picked up the trumpet at an early age and are considered classically trained. Can you tell me how your love for the trumpet came about and how that influenced you to pursue other avenues of music?
- I started playing trumpet because in elementary school we had to choose an instrument for band class. I wanted to play the saxophone but I remember there not being enough sax’s so my second choice was the trumpet (Real public school sh–). As soon as I started playing, everyone noticed that music was my gift. It was honestly the first thing that came naturally to me. I played the trumpet in school bands up until college and in high school, and also I picked up the guitar, bass, and piano. In college, I got into producing and using all of those skills I acquired to make tracks of all different genres.
2. At what age did you start rapping and when did you say to yourself “hey I’m nice at this shit”?
- I started rapping before I could even play the trumpet. I was maybe around 7. Me and my cousins used to play Jay-Z instrumentals and record verses into an old tape recorder. The first instrumental I used was the “In My Lifetime” beat. I knew I was nice back then. Writing raps were something I enjoyed because I got to use so many different parts of my brain at once. I feel like I was always nice and as I grew up my mind just expanded along with my lyrics.
3. Growing up, who were some of your influences and which ones would you say have had the biggest impact on your music?
- Jay-Z, Nas, Tupac, biggie, The Fugees, Ja Rule and pretty much every other rap artist made up the soundtrack to my youth. Hip-hop ruled my world. I always had my CD player on me. I studied everyone’s music. I grew up in the LimeWire era, which means everyone’s album was at my fingertips for free and I took advantage. I started downloading popular music of all genres because I was curious and it was available; that being said, the influences were endless. I’d say the most significant ones were Jay-Z, Kanye, The Beatles, Bob Dylan and Amy Winehouse. They each had music that made me think differently and really spoke to my spirit.
4. How would describe your sound and style?
- I’d say my sound is laid back but intense. My music is really chill because I’m a really chill dude but I’m always saying a lot. I never choose beats with too much going on because I want people to pay attention to the words.
5. Along with rapping and being classically trained, you’re also a professional cinematographer/video editor. Can you tell me about how that came about and who are some of the people that you have shot videos for?
- After my freshmen year of college, I dropped out. I was back home and I was broke. I had a lot of friends that were rappers so I got a job, saved up for a camera and started shooting videos for cheap. As I got better I saved up for a better camera. I kept on mastering the craft until I became a go-to guy for video work in NYC. It paid the bills and I even got to shoot for Asher Roth and Blu who are 2 of my favorite artists.
6. Last year you dropped your debut EP ‘Palm Tree Liquor.’ What was your creative process like when recording the project and what would you say is your favorite track, and why? It also was mostly produced by you correctly? Was that a conscious decision?
- When I was making ‘Palm Tree Liquor’, I would make a beat and then lay down the entire song in the same day. I made the entire thing in complete solitude. I didn’t listen to anyone else’s music.
- My favorite track is “HER” because it was just so real. It was pretty much about how people complicate relationships and want what they can’t have. The beat, the flows, the sample and the mix just came together so perfectly. To me, it was the perfect song.
- I made most of the beats because I knew I could make a dope project by myself. The 2 outsourced beats were put on the project last minute. I wanted the project to sound like ME and that’s the main reason why I produced it.
7. What do you think separates you from other artists in the tri-state area?
- I think the main thing that separates me from other hip-hop artists is that my music is free of ego. I never rap about being better than other rappers or put people down. All I do is lift people up in my music and it’s genuine. I feel like every rapper feels like they gotta brag about what they have or how nice at rapping they are. So I just rap about my life, my struggles, my triumphs and the world at large. I try to show people the bigger picture.
8. With Palm Tree Liquor out now and your next project on the horizon, is there anything you can tell us about your follow-up project, and when we can expect it to arrive?
- This next project is produced by a number of talented producers. It’s the first time I worked with other beat makers to create music and it’s a dope piece of art. The sound is broader than before. I think it’ll catch the ears of a lot of people. I have a few really dope features on it which I’m excited about. I can’t wait to share the tracklist.
9. 2016 was a big year for you, besides the release of your sophomore project, what can fans expect from you this year?
- This year I’m going to be doing a lot more shows, hitting new cities, working on my next EP and building my fan base. I know there are a lot more people that would rock with me if they heard me. Hundreds of people hit me up through Instagram saying that my music has been helping them get through tough times so I’ll be damned if I don’t keep going and reaching new people. I’m not gonna wait till the blogs feel like it’s time for me to be heard so I’m going straight to the people.