Rock With Kodak Black’s Vernacular, Or Not, He’s Still Gonna Illustrate His Way Of Life Best He Can On ‘Painting Pictures’

taylor
Written by taylor
/ 7 mins read

It might be said that Kodak Black is realer than real – sometimes too real for his own good. I was watching a clip of him today, captured recently on IG, where the 21 year old rapper is overheard disrespecting the memory of recently slain rapper Nipsey Hussle and his widowed wife Lauren London by suggesting that when London was done grieving, Black would be interested in being romantic with her. Mind you, this is a verbatim translation – it was not such a sugar coated proposition. Mind you again, most of what he actually said on the recording was so ignorant, that the proud London would doubtless not even give the comments a second thought. The rap community on the other hand dragged Kodak Black all over the internet for the comments. He gave a very immature apology, which actually ended up doing more damage I think, but at the end of the day, whether he realizes he went too far or not, as of this writing he plans to not back down if anyone wants to see him about it in person. I have been rooting for dude because I saw that he was progressing despite prison stints, and despite coming from an extremely rough environment that he somehow rapped his way out of. I’ve seen enough interviews to see the charming and funny side of Kodak. But the street mentality seems to override all of that when it comes to young men saying dumb shit, and what’s worse, young men not being able to back down – even over some stuff where contemporaries are saying you’re in the wrong. Yet, I’m not one to boycott someone’s music because of what they say or do in public. I’d rather look at aspects of one’s psychology in the music – and if those details are not to be found (rap lyrics are not the most reliable source of truth these days), the general vibe of the music can usually paint the picture of what’s happening in that mind. I really liked album Project Baby 2 and the more recent Dying to Live, but realizing I had missed giving 2017’s Painting Pictures a listen, it was definitely time.

What The Devil On Your Shoulder Sounds Like

Kodak Black throws his vocals around in an authoritative moan/thug/woof sing song which for a moment reminds me of 2Pac’s more emotional cadence – at least at the beginning of “Day for Day”, before dissolving into the thick mumbling Kodak speech he is so well known for. Here, the ends of words are hardly ever pronounced in a hard consonant – part of the regional sound – but it seems like Black is the best (or worst depending on if you like his swallowed garbled language) at presenting this very particular accent. “Day for Day” is mesmerizing as Kodak lists off all of these friends and associates and tries to help us empathize with the fact that some of them are doing 25 to life – while others will maybe come out in December to celebration, though the cynic in me says whoever gets out won’t be out for long. At the very least, not following the stringent rules of your parole is enough to send you away for a hella long time on something trumped up – but them’s the rules unfortunately. And so it is that sort of melancholy ‘what can you do but take it day for day’ vibe that accompanies this endearing track – and while I love the somber groove, it doesn’t pack nearly as much cinematic excitement as the opening track of Project Baby’s “Project Baby 2” (I never took the time to research – was there ever just a first song called Project Baby?). That one just blows this listener away. Yet somber ballad notwithstanding there are some stellar songs on Painting Pictures, such as “Coolin and Booted” for its deep bass line and moaned, barely understandable mantra which beckons the ear closer and closer. Songs like these work because, as crazy as it sounds, it is intimate, like Kodak Black is a devil on your shoulder giving you advice you shouldn’t follow – almost in your head because of the voice-centric sound design.

Trap Beats, But Somehow More

I tire of album after album and track after track of the same Trap beats and triplet rapping scheme from the southern rap industry. I got to hand it to Kodak Black – he rides his beats with an originality that sets him apart from contemporaries, and these beats in question aren’t the same style again and again. Yes, here and there, I hear beats that are a little cheap sounding, like “Twenty 8” or “Corrlinks and JPay”, “Off the Land”, “There He Go”, but even with these, there is first and foremost a nod to the old shook cheap way of making sounds, if that makes any sense. It hits my ears nostalgically, reminding me of The Hot Boys and Master P type shit. So it kinda works. And hearing them more and more, it works even more, blending with the verses which are sometimes compelling and really heartfelt. Then you have killer beats which go a little further in the taste department, such as “Candy Paint”, “U Ain’t Never”, “Why They Call You Kodak”, and the throwback sound of “Feeling Like.” Before I know it, the strangest thing ends up happening – just about every track, for its pros and cons, ends up taking on their own character – which is a testament that Kodak knows how to balance the DIY sound with the polished sound in order to do what’s most important – sound authentic to the streets.

A Patois All His Own

Kodak Black doesn’t rap the way all the young rappers rap – he definitely does his own thing, but also sing raps like an old Blues singer in his seventies, yet also sounds like a young boy sometimes who can barely form his words, or rather, is more interested in the ways the word is delivered with such melodic strangeness rather than whether something sounds remedial or not. And he certainly could care less about judgement – not only is he one of the most confident sounding voices out there, but the people he grew up with can understand every word, and that is all that matters. Dude is literally the antithesis of ‘polished.’ This was something that was a revolution in Hip Hop, for Hip Hop always had its regions and individual voices which could bark or whisper or be ultra laden with slang – it’s just that Kodak Black really pushes the envelope on an album like Painting Pictures to the point that what has traditionally always been a genre of clearly defined words, irregardless of style, is now all style and intelligible only to those who pay close attention. Sure, Kodak is so famous now that blonde chicks from Beverly Hills can quote a hook or two in a club, but this music is not aimed at them – it is actually for a very narrow few who understand every bit of it. I personally have enjoyed listening closer and closer to his monologues as they reveal more and more with each listen – but I could never truly understand it ‘all’ in the end. The truth is, Kodak Black the rapper does have compelling music, and he does take us on a journey into his environment, and we can’t get any closer, nor would we want to. He does this through the power of just his vocal delivery, unique slang, and correctly rendered musical under scorings. He does deserve to be at the vanguard of New Hip Hop. It’s just a shame that the new cats are so bold that nothing is beneath saying, making me perhaps excited for the next next generation’s musical contributions, but also fearful of the next-next levels of disrespectfulness sure to come.

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  • Kodak Black