With the release of his debut solo album “Painting Pictures” it appears as though Kodak Black has arrived. The album’s name and art are kind of a double entendre. There’s the idea of Kodak painting pictures with his words. There is also the fact that Kodak, as he mentions throughout his album, is very young. It’s easy to imagine a time in the not-too-distant past in which he painted pictures. Outside of art class, in the last couple of years Kodak has been the enfant terrible of hip-hop. He was in and out of jail and caused controversy or at least conversation with everything he did. His new album chronicles the struggles of the last few years and it also paints a picture of the struggles Kodak has been through his entire life.
Kodak takes us through the projects he grew up in, the drugs he saw and sold, and the hopelessness of growing up in a society that can be hostile to young Black men. “Reminiscing”, as the title suggests, is the track on which Kodak gives a full account of his time behind bars. Kodak also addresses people’s perception of Kodak as a buffoon. It’s the most mature work on the album; the song has some cliché but it’s Kodak at his best: raw, substantive and lucid. There’s more of that Kodak to be had on tracks like “Patty Cake”, “Save You” and “Tunnel Vision.”
The album is not all introspective Kodak. “Side N***a” and “Off The Land” are alright but they’re definitely not his best. Sometimes Kodak dabbles in troubling analogies. On “Off The Land” he constantly refers to breastfeeding, linking it to a sexual act. It’s not offensive but it is a bit messy. The lyric on “Up in Here”, however, is both offensive and messy: “I get stupid on a n***a, like I’m autistic.” These are bad, and there are others, but overall Kodak shows an impressive verbal dexterity and a continuation of a style that sets him apart from his peers.
The album features production from huge names like Metro Boomin’ and Mike Will Made It, but the album doesn’t sound like over-produced Trap. Because Kodak has a real, legitimate style he’s able to get by without leaning on the crutch of overly familiar beats. That being said Kodak does have a few guest appearances. In general these guest appearances don’t add much to the songs on which they appear, the exceptions being Jeezy and Bun B.
Bun B is a hip-hop legend and his presence on the album is telling. On “Candy Paint” Bub B says “Everybody wanna be a rapper (rapper)/Shinin’ like a boss on stage (stage)/But, it’s gonna take mo’ than some YouTube likes/And a gaddamn IG page (page).” When I first heard this lyric I though Bun B might be taking a shot at Kodak, but then why would he do a song with him? It makes more sense that the lyric tacitly acknowledges Kodak’s arrival. He has gone from internet phenomenon to a full-fledged rapper.
The next step in Kodak’s evolution will be getting rid of the many gun references and then getting rid of the guns. The gun references will only encourage young men to make some of the same mistakes Kodak made. The guns might end up putting Kodak right back to where he doesn’t want to go.
Right now Kodak is comfortable and incident-free. His album is performing well and he’s still the young prodigy of hip-hop, something like rap’s Basquiat. As such, Kodak’s first “opening” was a success. Not every picture sold, but the majority did and nobody walked away disappointed.
You can listen to the album here.