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New Music: Kodak Black

By Thomas Johnson, March 7 2018 —

There’s a reason #FreeKodak never really took off. Kodak Black isn’t even 20 and bolsters a jaw-dropping list of criminal offences. He’s not a role model — he’s an on-again-off-again member of society. Even though his rap sheet is egregious enough to put him among a special echelon of criminal rappers, Kodak’s stardom seems to be secured by his charisma.

He’s the stylistic offspring of Boosie Badazz or Gucci Mane. Like the former, he can punctuate every syllable with emotion and like the latter he steeps each syllable in an uncompromising dialect lazily seeping from between plated teeth. He has an undeniable star power that hinges on age and presumed sociopathy and he pegs the system he’s trapped in as the rationale for his misdeeds.

Kodak raps with a magnetic appeal. He’s a skillful hook writer who understands his strengths and how to play toward them. Heart Break Kodak (HBK) was released on Valentine’s Day and, admittedly, it’s really good. It’s the most outright emotional release in Kodak’s catalogue, being at once strikingly forthcoming and noxiously defensive. “Acting Weird” is a neurotic dissection of Kodak’s drug addled paranoia, but there are fun moments too. “Codeine Dreamin” is an over-the-counter Magic School Bus ride through the cosmos. Kodak and Lil Wayne double cup lean among demons and wraiths, hopping from planet to planet. There’s an equilibrium between the violence and satisfaction. And maybe that’s part of the problem.

As of January, Kodak can add to his rap sheet charges of child neglect, grand theft of a firearm, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, another possession charge and then three more miscellaneous charges after that. Kodak received these charges after live-streaming himself and a few others getting high and passing a gun around his infant son. Kodak’s lawyer has called foul play in the case and three of the seven felonies have been dropped. What’s almost as astonishing as his criminal record is the luck he’s had in court.

This is the eternal paradox of rap distilled. Kodak is currently the nucleus of hip-hop’s forever struggle with morality. He’s another in a long line of reprehensible figures that we afford stardom as long as his enmity provides us a dependable stream of digestible content. Heart Break Kodak (HBK) is an hour of objectively good rap, soured by its author’s character. For better or worse, Kodak is one of the most nuanced artists of our generation. He’s currently awaiting trial for sexual battery.

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