KOTA The Friend, a Brooklyn-based rapper, song writer and producer, dropped his new album "Lyrics To Go Vol. 5" at midnight on January 25 and had a record release and listening party at Wreckroom, a comfy recording studio and event space to give fans and friends an early listen to the project.
The album features production from heavy hitters like Statik Selektah, who helmed the boards on “Vienna” (Track 9), and Hit-Boy, who produced “Beijing” (Track 1) and Tulum (Track 2).
Kota manned production duties on several songs, including the jazz-inflected “Robben Island,” where he raps about facing adversity and staying true to oneself.
The high-energy event had Kota, born and raised in Clinton Hill, treating fans and friends to craft cocktails and pizza on a mild Brooklyn night, a welcomed respite from the snowstorm that hit the borough the previous week.
The party resembled a classic Benetton ad as fans and friends represented every spectrum of skin tone, ethnicity, and style, including a middle-aged high school basketball coach who was there with his 30-year-old son.
After mixing and mingling upstairs, the audience assembled in the downstairs recording studio for the first listen of the album. Kota played the album for fans and friends at the Wreckroom and those streaming the event on Instagram Live, giving descriptions and backstories song by song.
Fans lined the studio walls and crowded around Kota, some wearing merch from his previous album “Protea.” Speaking to fans in the room and on Instagram Live, Kota was deep into the music, often closing his eyes to seemingly revisit the moments of creating the song and locations that inspired the lyrics.
Kota uses a variety of locales as song titles, but on tracks such as Vienna, OREGON and Alabama Hills, the locales double as a narrative device as he deploys a storytelling technique, going beyond typical rap song structure. The event let Kota celebrate his music and growth as an artist while getting live feedback in the room and online.
There's a nature vibe throughout several songs on the project, such as Big Bear, Evergreen and Milan, with Kota stating that he recorded tracks in the desert, by the lake and in the mountains.
The album listening party fit perfectly at the Wreckroom, a landmarked 1899 Victorian structure purchased and renovated by actor Adrian Grenier and his mother, Karesse Grenier. The house features solar panels, radiant heat, recycled denim insulation and reclaimed wood floorboards, among other environmentally-friendly touches.
Kota is not the typical rap moniker, and when asked about the genesis of his name, the rapper said it came from the Disney movie "Brother Bear," where one character is named Kota.
“I thought that was a cool name, and when I Googled it, I saw it meant friend, so I just called myself Kota The Friend," he told BK Reader.
When asked about his thoughts on streaming services, Kota said it paved the way for artists to remain independent and make money.
“Because of streaming services, you don't have to be super famous to make a living off of music," said Kota, who currently has 1.8 million monthly listeners on Spotify and 367,000 subscribers on YouTube.
In a testament to the power of streaming services breaking and crossing borders, the musician will tour Europe with stops in Berlin, Amsterdam, Cologne, Paris, Lisbon, Manchester and London from March 20 to 30.