If there was a rapper (other than Chance the Rapper) who talks about paving their own path it’s Brooklyn’s own Kota the Friend. The independent artist has dropped six projects in the last three years, including two this year. Lyrics to Go Vol.2 is only 15 minutes long but each song is filled with a message to takeaway. Now, two months later comes this project, To Kill a Sunrise, produced by Statik Selektah, who’s worked with Nas, Freddie Gibbs, Joey Badass and more recently, Griselda.
The album starts off strong with ‘Wolves’, a change from Kota’s normally lyrical style and production choices. His lyrics are full of passion for his craft as he raps about his place in the rap game with Nas and Jay Z controlling the game.
The next standout track on To Kill a Sunrise is ‘The Cold’. Another song that has hunger unaccustomed to Kota’s previous tracks, the song has a nice contrast with Statik Selektah’s spirited beat.
Speaking of Statik Selektah, the production on a couple of songs sound like they belong in the 90s. ‘Hate’ and ‘The Love’ have drum kicks and looped samples that sound like throwaways from a Nas or A Tribe Called Quest record.
The next couple of songs deal with matters of the heart. ‘Go Now’ with fellow Brooklyn artist Haile Supreme is about getting mixed messages from a girl while ‘What ya Sayin’ is an open letter to an ex-girlfriend who wishes ill on Kota. ‘Live & Direct’ is more about staying steady in all aspects of life, but has some lyrics in the beginning about taking things slow with his girl.
The last tracks off To Kill a Sunrise emulate the Kota we know with lyrics about freedom and individuality. In particular the last two tracks ‘Sunrise’ and ‘Sunset’ stand out with more jazzy instrumentals and inspiring lyrics such as “If I’ma be a star, the light I’m servin’ is Michelin, I’m all over New York like my metro card is unlimited.”
Even with the top tier production, the thing that holds back To Kill a Sunrise (like the majority of Kota’s projects) is that songs sound indistinguishable. Without checking, songs blend together, separated only by Statik Selektah’s producer tag.
You know what you’re getting with every Kota project, laidback beats and some outstanding lyricism. That can resonate in a variety of situations, but it comes at a cost. Kota lacks artistic diversity, on some level it all sounds the same even with harsher lyrics at the top of To Kill a Sunrise..
Kota’s the perfect artist to throw on in the background, you could shuffle his entire catalogue and not know the difference between albums. He’s great at what makes him noticeable, but are we ever going to get something different?