On December 13th Brooklyn rapper KOTA The Friend headlined a showcase called Colored Family Presents: Family Time. Colored Family is a collective that is made up of KOTA, Lovey, Ol' Soul, Sha Summers, Dan & The Maschine, STRANGE, and Meta. Colored Family was well represented on the stage that night, but other acts like Danny Delavie, Raheem Recess, and Lizzy Ashliegh also graced the mic. A couple of weeks before KOTA took the stage in his comfy fit to close out the show, we sat down to discuss tracks from his Palm Tree Liquor EP, resiliency, Naruto, and much more. Peep our conversation below, it's definitely an interesting one.
TFN: On your track “Sand Castles” you rap, "but once they know you human you’ll be chastised." What does being human mean to you?
KOTA The Friend: Being human is making mistakes, having your issues and your faults, everybody has problems and downfalls, but we also have triumphs and our good days. Being human is accepting and understanding one another and not judging each other because of what makes us human. I feel like the biggest problem with humanity is the fact that we don’t accept each other for who we actually are. We put on this persona on Instagram, Facebook, and social media. We put on one face to our friends, one face to our family, one face to strangers and it’s never just us because we know that people are not gonna accept it. Being human is being yourself and knowing that other people are just as imperfect as you.
TFN: On your track "Man Cub" you say this town is like Jumanji. Can you explain how New York has sculpted you?
KOTA: I was a very sensitive person, everything affects me, everything around me affects me. I’m hypersensitive to everything so New York definitely changed the way I view things because coming from New York, I never left the city that much, this is all I’m accustomed to. Like a lot of people that are from New York or from the big city we don’t really leave the shit ‘cause there’s no reason to really. Just runnin the street helped me and gave me so many experiences. Climbing on rooftops, smoking, drinking, sneaking off the rooftop, going here, going there. Doing a whole bunch of things I’m not supposed to be doing, it gave me a sense of this was the world to us. Like this concrete jungle where people are mean, people are rude, and you just along with it or you fight back. New York City made me a fighter if anything ‘cause I’m not really a confrontational person but I’m not gonna let you run over me or talk to me crazy or none of that. No matter who you are, no matter where you’re from, I don’t care. That’s ‘cause I’m from New York, and I take pride in that.
TFN: On "Her" you have a line, “Everything so simple, but we make it so complex." Why do you think love is like that?
KOTA: I think it has to do with today, like nowadays. Love is one of most complex things quote unquote, but it’s so simple. Be honest with me, I’ll be honest with you. It doesn’t have to be this “oh we’re playing games.” Nowadays you got all of these different outlets to talk to people and meet people, that it’s like nothing is genuine. That whole song was a tribute to the modern day relationship. The first verse is about a girl that’s playing games with me, and the second verse is about me playing games with a girl, and then the third verse is like fuck it, I don’t got time for this shit, I got money to make, I got things to do, I don’t got time to be dealing with it. That’s what the modern day relationship is games, games upon games. You play one person, that person is playing you, and that person is playing another person--it’s a never-ending cycle of deceit. The thing is love is not complex, we make it that way. We make it so we can’t trust anybody, and nobody can trust us. And then we get mad at other people for the shit we’re doing, the cycle just continues, and we all hate each other because no one’s being real.
TFN: Keeping with the subject of love on your track “Grean" you say you’re living off love? How does that feel?
KOTA: That whole song is about stepping out of this little world that we live in, the box that we live in as mankind. It’s about taking a step out and being at peace. Living off love that one line was supposed to mean I’m literally, I’m breathing on a different level, I’m living on a different level. It’s not the same as when you’re in the box and you’re dealing with your insecurities, your drama, your family, everybody and their different personalities. For a moment you step out of that and you live off of pure love, just everything good, and you don’t let any negativity enter your body, it’s like there’s none there. There’s no negativity, you’re living off the one thing that’s good in the world, which is love. And for that moment everything else vanishes and the only thing that’s in front of you is peace and love.
TFN: I feel like your new cut “On The Porch,” and your Palm Tree Liquor cut “Sunny Day" complement each other would you agree?
KOTA: Yeah, definitely. The inspiration for “On The Porch” comes from “Sunny Day.” “Sunny Day” is definitely one of my favorite tracks off of Palm Tree Liquor because it’s like “you going through so much but fuck that,” that’s what I take away from both songs. In both of them, I was like this is all the shit that I’m going through, this shit is hard, I’m emotionally fucked up, and feeling emotionally shitty, but at the same time fuck that shit. Like no, I’m not going to give in to that negativity. I feel like those songs are about making it no matter what. Like yeah it’s fucked up but it’s a sunny day, it’s a sunny day. I got the idea for that song because one day I was in the house and I was feeling shitty, I was feeling horrible. And I stepped out and it was a sunny day. It was like you stop thinking about all of it because you notice the good things about what’s going on. “Sunny Day” is like “it’s cool, everything’s gonna be alright.” “On The Porch” is like “I’m living simple. Things ain’t all good but I got my liquor, I’m on this porch, I got my rocking chair, and just kick back.” Don’t worry about things that got you fucked up or things you can’t change ‘cause it’s life.
TFN: Along with those are “Rivers” on Palm Tree Liquor and “Lakes” on Self Portrait. Why the water theme? Is it because they're calming.
KOTA: The different bodies of water have different personalities to them. A lake is more still, a river is more flowing. The song “Rivers” is more about trucking through life, it’s like going down a river. You hit rocks, there’s a faster part, a river moves slow sometimes, and then eventually it all goes off to the waterfall or leads somewhere to a bigger pool of water. But a lake is still, and the song “Lakes” that’s the personality of the song. I’m just talking about (begins to rap) “road trips to places where the dope is, ray bans and boat rips, ash tray in a soap dish.” It’s like I’m on a canoe rather than water rafting. And then “Rivers” is so emotional. “I’ve been in dark places, contract sales with the snakes kid, all I want is peace no love, nice beach, no drugs, yeah I’m cold no hugs, nigga I know that I ain’t shit.” I’m getting so deep into feelings and how I felt at the moment. “Lakes” is more chill like we getting there, we just got off the waterfall now we in a little lake.
TFN: It’s kind of ironic that you have a feature on "Island Man." Why did you choose to link with Blu?
KOTA: Blu is one of my favorite artists, so I definitely wanted to get him on my project. A lot of people have their favorite artist, this person, that person, oh my favorite person is Kanye. I been fucked with Blu somebody showed me his first project Below The Heavens. It’s a song that really got me, I think it’s called “So(ul) Amazin’” and that shit was like “I fucks with the dude’s sound.” And I started playing him all the time, playing while I was skating, walking. I’m making my first project and I’m like fuck it let me get Blu on the track. I hit him up one day, boom. He was like oh I fucks with it, boom sent it back. Then we made it. I’m just happy that I got him on the project, he’s literally the only feature on that project. It was a special feature to have because I know he empathizes with that. With him going through his own drama.
I always support him throughout whatever he’s doing. I don’t care, I love his music. ‘Cause when you listen to an artist, you kind of get a piece of who they are. So when they going through it, you kind of understand rather than sitting back like a regular person and looking at it and pointing your fingers and judging him for x,y, and z. For who is, for what he does. It was the perfect track to get him on.
TFN: Going off what you just said I want to ask, do you ever feel vulnerable about what you’re about to put on track?
KOTA: I can only make music when I'm feeling vulnerable, that’s the only time. If I don't feel vulnerable I'm not going to make anything good. I realized that about myself recently, it's the only way. Literally, if I'm in a space where everything is good, I’m confident, I’m kinda beating up life, making money, doing this and that. I’m not in a space to make music. I have to beat myself down to that point. Not necessarily beat myself down and make myself feel bad. But I have to humble myself to the point that I can feel everything. I have to get out of this world where I have to fight everyday, I have to be a go-getter, and put myself in a frame of mind where I can be effected again. You ever watch Naruto?
TFN: A few times.
KOTA: Alright, so in Naruto there’s this episode where he has to go train to become stronger, and he goes to this village called Mount Myōboku, it’s like this frog village, and there’s a whole bunch of frogs that talk, they’re mad spiritual. And there’s this thing called spirit energy, and the only way he could get the spirit energy to make him super powerful is if he stays completely still. He has to completely get out of his life. I remember one of the quotes was, “It’s easy to move, it’s hard to stay still.” So that’s what I feel like when I’m getting into that space, I have to completely be still in a sense in order to take in everything that’s going on around me. Or else I’m not going to take it in the same way. It’s gonna hit my skin and then bounce off, I really got to be in a frame of mind to accept everything, and just let everything affect me, and then I make music.
TFN: This next question is inspired by your track “Nose Bleeds.” Who have you/would you sit in the nose bleeds to see live and why?
KOTA: Dead or alive? Or just alive?
TFN: Dead or alive.
KOTA: Dead or alive. Man I would sit in the nose bleeds to see Marvin Gaye. I would sit in the nose bleeds even to see Blu. Marvin Gaye because when I listen to his music it’s so much soul in his voice. A lot of the dudes from that era you can feel where they was coming from. Oh my God and Amy Winehouse. I would sit so far in the nose bleeds to see Amy just listening to her voice on a track, I could only imagine what’s it’s like to be in same hall or room with her. And she’s singing and you’re just taking it all in. I love her, because she let me know what it was for an artist to feel something. ‘Cause every artist it’s like we feel shit. But if you could make other people feel it, and you know that they’re feeling it. You listen to her voice, and you know that whatever she’s singing right now she fucking means that shit. It affects you in that way, like damn, she really did that just now. I’m kinda tight that I didn’t get to meet her, that I didn’t get to see her live in concert. I don’t think we’ll get another one of those. We haven’t had one of those since Jazz era, around the time with Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday.