- Solar Return (feat. Saba)
- Chicago Diner
After multiple singles and months of waiting, Brooklyn MC Kota the Friend has released his debut album, FOTO. The album is 19 tracks long with features from Saba, Lizzy Ashliegh, Hello Oshay, Isa Reyes and Richard Parker.
Kota’s music has always showcased a nostalgic blend of New York boom bap and Chicago styled type beats (the production work of Youtuber/Producer Origami no doubt contributed to this). FOTO is no different and is a smooth project with plenty of wordplay and an overarching message of conquering adversities to reach mental clarity.
Right away Kota sets up this journey with Richard Parker’s intro, hinting to the albums title saying “Make sure you taking some photos, man.” In his verse, he nicely introduces himself and sets up the neighbourhood that raised him and played an important role helping his garden reach Full Bloom. Church explores one of the key lyrical themes of Kota with many biblical references over a bass and hi-hat heavy track. One of the more energetic songs, it fits well overall but I wonder if it could’ve been more exciting with a bigger build up and better execution of the chorus.
Birdie is the first single we are reintroduced to but Kota added an extra layer of saxophone that definitely gives it a grander feel to this lazy love song perfect for a Sunday. Hollywood is another great song, probably my favourite on the album based on the beat alone. Not sure if its the same sample from the song Tribe by Bas featuring J. Cole, but either way I enjoy Hollywood in the same I loved Tribe. Then follows Alkaline, another highlight of the album, however its one of the first that reuses a lot of other song elements, and was the first hint of the albums repetition.
Sedona hints to this also, and presents one of my biggest fears going into the album. Kota has near mastered his style – the laid back sunny vibe is something he owns – but eventually it starts to seem recycled. Though its not necessarily anything bad, I still loved Sedona and Chicago Diner but for an album experience it personally hindered the journey. Same can be said about the four interludes that while they added to the storytelling aspect, I’m personally not a huge fan of skits in albums. However, in between an interlude sandwich, Kota welcomes one of Chicago’s best up and comers, Saba, to join him on Solar Return. Keeping Kota’s ability for catchy hooks, Saba’s feature maintains the albums themes but brings a much-needed refreshing voice.
KOALA has a harder hitting beat and a more Trap styled flow and reminds me that Kota is capable of versatility, something he should explore more to ensure his brand does not become stagnant. The album ends on a high note with For Coloured Boys, Good To Be Home and FOTO (feat. Hello Oshay), and really hones in on Kota’s journey to clarity. It’s on FOTO’s upbeat call and response chorus, that we realise how Kota’s music has helped us on our own journey. His music is warm, optimistic and essential for relaxing and taking time for yourself.
Kota The Friend hinted to my worries of repetition with the long track list and interludes, but in the end FOTO proves to be a fantastically smooth album for easy listening, showing us how Kota The Friend has overcome his adversity and inherently helped us do the same.
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