The bottom line
Clocking in at just over 14 minutes in length, Lyrics to Go, Vol. 1 gives the listeners advice on being introspective, appreciating what you have and being a positive influence for the people around you. This bite-sized piece of work showcases Kota’s creative artistry and unique sound.
“F*** your opinion, I was doing good without it, I been living, I been minding my business.” Those are the first lyrics you hear from this album and it sets the tone for what’s to come throughout the rest of the project. Trusting yourself, loving the people around you, and having an end goal are themes that come up plenty of times. You can tell from his Instagram that he values family and flexing his creative muscle. For only being 26 at the time of writing this review, it appears Kota has an older person’s wisdom for such a young age.
Coming off of his highly successful album debut FOTO released in the middle of 2019, Kota the Friend is looking to continue that momentum with Lyrics to Go, Vol. 1.
If there existed a pocket-sized booklet full of life advice derived from success and failures, it would be the written version of this album. Kota the Friend is open and truthful during this whole 14-minute experience and he’s giving the listeners an insight on what he believes people should value and embrace. FOTO had a similar theme where it seemed that every track was a different part of Kota’s life and he was guiding the audience through it. “Berlin” tells a dark story about his struggle and trust issues as he raps:
I had to go away and get this s*** right / Get back on the mic and tell the people 'bout my s*** life / See me on the 'Gram and you be thinkin' that it's lit / It's a s*** show, I'll tell you all about it if you sit tight / Lost a couple friends, do not worry 'cause they ain't dead / We just grew apart, it was time, that's what fate said /– Berlin
My favorite thing about Kota the Friend as an artist is I feel like he’s speaking directly to me in his songs. (Maybe he knew that and that’s why he calls himself Kota the Friend). The production on this album fits into his style with perfect alignment. I guess this makes sense because Kota was the producer for this album along with FOTO.
His voice is clear over the beats and it never drowns out the beautiful pianos and guitars in the background. Every sound compliments the message Kota is trying to spread and does nothing but amplify the listening experience. This project has a unique feel for a hip-hop album. Almost every track has bass and snare but you barely notice them over the sounds of saxophones and trumpets giving Lyrics to Go a jazzy blues vibe.
The world is full of great rappers, but only a handful of those rappers have that perfect voice and natural volume to make the listener feel that that particular song was made for them. Every track on Lyrics to Go, Vol. 1 sounds like Kota the Friend is talking to a small group of people over a campfire. He’s relaxed, smooth, confident, sincere and this is where Kota is at his best.
An example of this is present on the track “She” where Kota is painting this picture of a girl he met and is describing her in a way where you almost think you know her personally. Also on “Lazy River” where he’s talking about where his mindset is and how one should think about the situation they’re currently going through:
If you aren't happy when you poor / Then you won't be happy when you have it all / Might as well just get your mind right / Shine bright, so you never blinded by the limelight / Ain't it good when your vision match up with you hindsight / Validate myself, give a f*** about a five mics / No shade boy, livin' double X-L /– Lazy River
Lyrics to Go being so short is both a gift and a curse. This album was released on January 18th, 2020 and it’s been in my rotation ever since. A large part of that is because it’s such an easy listen. In its entirety, it’s as if Kota’s voice is a whisper and you’re walking through the woods reflecting on your life decisions along the way. You can just press play and it fits with any environment you might find yourself in at the time.
With that said, I can’t help but wish some of the songs had a second verse or a longer, single verse. “She” would have benefited greatly from a second verse about what happens after she “cracked that smile” and gave Kota that same look. (Listen to “She” below). He teases us in a way while he describes this girl but the song just ends somewhat abruptly. Technically this was released as an album but it gives off the impression of an Extended Play (EP).
- Can't Please Everybody
- Lazy River
- Flu Game
Lyrics to Go, Vol 1. is a supremely enjoyable album filled with extremely chill beats and powerful, moving lyrics. I can’t even tell you the number of times I’ve played this album without getting tired of hearing Kota the Friend’s voice, valuable life lessons, and relatable lyrics. The guitars, piano, saxophones, and trumpets are a nice addition to the ever usual bass and snare while Kota calmly glides of the beats with his personal subject matter. As previously mentioned, I wish some of the songs were longer and a bit more fleshed out, but this sample-sized showcase leaves me eager to hear his next project.