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Kota the Friend's 'To Kill a Sunrise' is this year's best rap album to date

Kota the Friend's latest project, "To Kill A Sunrise," is the rapper's sixth studio album. Between old-school jazz vibes and masterful production by Statik Selektah, this 10-track banger is a must-stream. – Photo by Kota / Twitter

2021 is Kota the Friend’s year. The Brooklyn rapper released his fifth album, “Lyrics to GO, Vol. 2,” in January, and now he is back with a joint project with legendary DJ and producer, Statik Selektah.

To Kill A Sunrise,” which was released on March 19, proves the duo are a perfect match. Kota’s smooth, introspective lyrics over Selektah’s golden-era hip-hop provide a timeless rap album that demands repeat listens.

“It’s a privilege to work with (Selektah). He’s been a brother to me since I started making music. This album is a statement, it’s no fillers, bars and amazing production. I’m coming for it all, my way, and I’m not taking no for an answer,” Kota said.

Selektah also said, “I’m excited for the world to hear this. Really serious soundtrack with him at his best lyrically. I love that Kota has made his own lane for himself the way he has so independently."

“To Kill A Sunrise” only has 10 tracks and clocks in at a little less than 34 minutes, but the duo ensured that every second was ethereal. Here’s a breakdown of each track:

Wolves"

Selektah’s enthralling production on the introductory track sets the tone for an album of bluesy boom-bap drums and jazz-inspired beats.

Kota’s lyrics over the captivating track produce a melodic, soulful energy that’s consistent throughout the album.

On the track, he said, “I can't lose/Brought up by the wolves, parted from the pack,” and “I am working, I am worth it and I earned what I accrue,” demonstrating his passion and ambition, as he rose from rags to riches.

Hate

Embracing his Brooklyn roots, “Hate” feels inspired by old-school, East Coast hip-hop with hard-hitting drums and a simple, looped production. 

This track is more upbeat and energetic than the last, but it still carries the positive message of having fun and chasing your dreams, as is a trademark of Kota’s lyricism. 

The Cold

Selektah’s production on this track is one of my favorites on the album. The beat synthesizes hard drums and delicate strings to create a melodic sound that is layered perfectly with Kota’s voice and lyricism.

Kota's passion for positivity shines through again, as he details overcoming negativity and finding the light at the end of the tunnel with lyrics such as “God watchin’, I’m gettin’ hit by the breeze/I tend to stumble and slip but never fall to my knees” and “Water in my soul, the pressure on my back/Pushing through my lows/I go (50) on my road.”

The Love

Similar to “The Cold,” “The Love” is another track with old-school flair. The track features a jazzy beat, piano chords and a retro feel that effortlessly complements Kota’s sounds. 

This track is extremely heartfelt and my personal favorite on this project. He inspires listeners with lyrics such as, “The love keep you going when the weather getting rough/The love keep you focused when you really wanna run/The love give you motive when you feeling like you done.”

Go Now” feat. Haile Supreme

Supreme, the sole feature on the album, contributes an irresistible chorus over another exceptional beat from Selektah.

On an album with only one feature, the choice to add Supreme was just that — supreme.

“Go Now” is all about giving their partners the world and building a family on the foundations of love, making it a truly beautiful track with a profound message.

What ya Sayin’

On “What ya Sayin',” Kota describes a past relationship with a partner who was dedicated to holding him back and his breakthroughs after ending the relationship. 

The powerful story of focusing on yourself and succeeding while people are hoping for the worst for you is a testament to his strength, and it is beautifully delivered on this track.

Live & Direct

“Live & Direct” is the best rap performance from Kota that we have seen on this album. His delivery, lyricism and flows are highlighted on this track and truly exhibit his growth as an artist.

Kota’s voice and flow are incredibly unique, and he showcases this strength in this song. 

The second verse is smooth and powerful as he opens with the lyrics: “Me and my brothers speak about our trauma/About emotional damage handed off by our father/And how it wasn't intentional but a cry for help/How long can a man carry the world before he cry for help?/I spent the better of a decade chasin' dollars/Just to boast I was the number one provider.”

This performance puts the up-and-coming artist on the map as one of the best lyricists of the current rap scene.

Day Glow

“Day Glow” is another personal favorite of mine from “To Kill A Sunrise.” The production is upbeat and embodies the lyrics, which provide the imagery of Kota being on a road trip down the shore, reminiscing on his past and dreaming of his future.

In this rap, Kota's lyrics are, “I be in the backyard/Baskin' in the dayglow/Starin' at the stars/Takin' in the sun rain/Open up the front door/Open up the windows/And let it all in.” He romanticizes the beauty in the little moments that make us who we are, and I think this is a really important message considering the times we are currently in.

Sunrise

Selektah’s performance on “Sunrise” is his greatest moment on the album. The production is remarkable and fueled by jazz roots that begin to bring the album to a triumphant close. 

Kota raps about remaining authentic and loving the life he has, as his lyrics reflect the triumphant nature of the beat, putting to rest the negative influences discussed on tracks like “What ya Sayin'.”

Kota also referenced the title of the work on this track, giving meaning to the work as a whole, when he said, “They been trying to kill a sunrise/But you can't contain the sun, trust me, we have just begun.”

Sunset

The album’s conclusion, “Sunset,” is perfectly executed, tying together all of the messages Kota spoke on throughout the project, and the characteristics of each beat culminate into one final masterpiece.

Overall, “To Kill A Sunrise” by Kota and Selektah is one of the best rap albums of the year thus far. Selektah’s legendary production in collaboration with Kota’s positive lyricism and smooth flows creates an old-school, East Coast hip-hop vibe that modern rap and hip-hop has been craving.

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