A few weeks ago I was contacted by Kota’s team, stating that there was a new project Kota was working on that was dropping soon. Having recently met the young rapper, I knew I had to hear whatever he had in the works. Kota caught my eye a few years back when he was doing his series Lyrics to go. The jazzy beats and his prolific bars combined with his consistency has made him a force to be reckoned with in hip hop. Now at age 26, Kota has been rapidly growing and now boasts a calm 2 million monthly listeners on his Spotify account. After dropping his debut studio album FOTO this time last year, Kota is back for more. EVERYTHING is out now, featuring artists KYLE, tobi lou, Joey Badass, Braxton Cook, and more! Read below what Kota had to say about the album, being a father, and quarantine life, and be sure to stream the album available now on all streaming platforms.
Whats your daily routine like?
Quarantine is never that big a deal to me because I spend a lot of time by myself anyway, making music or just chillen. But now I think the toughest part about it is finding a way to spend time with my son with everything going on. Keeping him safe and keeping him entertained, cuz he’s three years old so you constantly have to be creating to ways to have fun. Other than than just finalizing the project and waiting on a couple features
How’s your son? You guys are very cute you seem like a great dad
Being a father is great, I prioritize it above everything else in my life. Everyday I’m learning new things about him, and he’s becoming a whole little boy, ya know? And It’s just beautiful. A couple of days ago when I was putting him to bed he was like “ Dad, you’re my best friend” and I was like *Hold heart to chest* “Thats Crazy”. And It’s cool that someone loves you so much that they will constantly pour out their soul to you because that’s how they feel ya know?
How did the collaboration with Lakeith Stanfield come about and can you tell me about his role?
He’s someone that, ever since I saw him on the screen, I think the first thing I ever saw him on was Atlanta, he always seemed like a person with profound Ideas ya know? And a really individualistic person. So I got him on it, I don’t want to say in what capacity [The album is out now] but he’s doing his thing. He’s really giving what he gives to the world and to the acting world, he’s put the same thing on to my album.
Have you been compared to any Chicago artists? Do you draw influence from artists like Saba or Kweku Collins?
I think that it’s something that mashed up. Not necessarily that I was drawing from that, I think I still draw from a lot of New York sounds. But when I discovered Saba I remember being drawn to it and saying “yo this is dope” you know what I mean? I think I relate to what they’re doing because its so musical ya know? Before I discovered Saba the only Chicago artists that I would listen to from time to time was Chance [The Rapper]. And I just came across Saba’s music when I was making Foto and that’s why I got him on the album. but as I learn more about what was going on, cuz I never listen to anything ya know? I never listen to music that wasn’t my own or like old music. Diving in to new music I then found out about Saba and Noname and other people. And now the artists coming out of Chicago, the fact they’re really helping each other out and putting each other on i think that makes room to create more buzz, that’s why i think their sound has gotten so big and it reached so far that it got to me.
How do you think New York has shaped your sound?
I really can’t thank new york enough for the sound that I have. My favorite artist growing up was Jay Z, he’s still my favorite artist. Even dropping 444 i still marvel over that album, because he pretty much created an album after all the greatness that he’s created over the years, he then makes 444 and now its one of my favorite albums period. And the fact that he can still do that after so long really inspires me. He grew up 10 blocks away from where I grew up. But its not just him I used to binge on Nas, Biggie, Fab. Listening to New York radio in the 2000s, it always inspired us. We were always watching 106 & Park and BET and back then, New york was taking the game, so I think its just in me ya know? The musicality, the flows, the accent, everything is just in me. I owe my whole career to growing up in NYC and being apart of the culture here.
Who’s someone you worked with on this album that you were really excited about?
Everybody on this album is new, i’ve never worked with them. Other than one person, Hello Oshay, he’s one of my best friends from junior high school. We worked on previous projects together, and he’s on this one because I want him on every single thing that I do cause he’s dope. I’m hype about the Tobi Lou feature, he’s one of my favorites and he’s from Chicago too, I connect with the fact that they’re doing what they want, for me that makes me happy. They’re doing what they want and not just what’s on the radio. I think that’s how we connect, whoever’s doing what they want, I appreciate it.
Then I got Joey and Bas on the project and those are two dope New York artists that have been doing their thing for some years. To me, they still need to get more light shined on them, especially Bas who’s from queens, but nobody really knows he’s from queens. I feel like new york has to show him more love. I wanted to that track because, I know he’s saying what new york sounds like, I know you’re on hot 97 saying new york sounds like this and that, but this is what new york also sounds like so that’s what I wanted to get across with that track. I want to keep the rest of the project on the low, but we got some dope vocalists on it, Braxton Cook on saxophone, this girl named Alex that I met when I was in Chicago for a day and got her on some songs. We’re still waiting on a couple of features so I can’t really say much.
How do you feel about music labels?
Nah I don’t want to sign. I don’t see the need, I’m happy where I’m at. Every year I put out another album, I get more traction. In 2018 i think I had 11 million streams on Spotify and in 2019 71 million. So I look at that, and year to year, Its just hard work and I’d rather just do the work. I love working hard, I love making music, I love putting it out and making videos, and I love marketing figuring out what works and what doesn’t. I’m here for the long haul, I’m not going to give up what I have when I know it’s valuable and nobody is offering anything good ya know what I mean?
What do you think of the current state of live music, and in a post Covid-19 world where do you see it going?
Man we’re gonna find out soon enough. It’s definitely going in the direction of pay-per-view kinda you know what I mean? Nobody should be doing a free concert period. Whether it’s online or whatever. Just like we watch boxing on pay per view and everybody sits down to watch the fight, it should be the same for concerts. It should be like 20$ or whatever because everyones tuning in from wherever they are in the world. And with everything happening right now nobody knows exactly when everything is going to be accessible again. Personally I’m not into the whole instagram performance thing, especially not during this quarantine situation, because it takes a lot to put on a good show. It takes multiple people to put on a good show and to be able to do it the right way, and I can’t really do it because I don’t feel comfortable being around people right now. I have a child so I have to be wary of what I’m exposing him to. It’s defiantly not the time for me. I feel like with the internet and social media, anything can happen. I’m waiting like everyone else, I’m ready to move with the current and that’s what you got to do ya know?
You recently participated in Guapdad4000 Rona Raps, could we expect a possible collab in the future?
We just kinda met over the internet. I saw him one time at Day N Vegas, he was on his whole celebrity shit. Not in a negative way. I remember he was just walking and he had the du rag on and his squad around him, it was the coolest shit ever. He hit me up a few days ago and asked me to do it and I said hell yeah. He’s just a dope person. I think he’s really cool for that and I was down to participate. As soon as he sent it to me I sent it back to him with the video in like 45 minutes and that was that. But yeah I think we could definitely do a track if he’s widdit I’m widdit.
On the album, FOTO, you have several songs dedicated to people such as, Pops interlude, Melvin’s interlude, Mommy, Uncle Cal’s interlude, Grandpa’s interlude. Are you really close with your family?
The interludes were interesting. I put my phone down in the middle of the dinner table that I had been eating at my whole life at my grandmothers house, and I pressed record. I asked the matriarchs of my family questions about us, about who we are, about things that I don’t know about. Like I don’t know much about my grandfather or stories of the past from when we were growing up, there are things that are unclear to me, and they really cleared a lot of stuff up. The whole idea is to paint a clear picture of who I am and where I’m from. A Foto. I wanted to capture the moment and get a better understanding of who I am. I think Foto is really for my fans, and I really gained a sense of self after making that album. I learned a lot about who I am and why I am through learning about family members. It was an experience just sitting there and taking in all those stories. I feel like a lot of families don’t expose a lot, they keep the difficult parts hidden that’s why It was such a crazy experience for me. I love my family, they’re everything to me. We have our problems like every family but I feel like forgiveness and love, connecting with each other and being open, that’s step one.
Is there a general message or story or message you’re trying to tell on your project/music in general?
Yeah I think the message/overall theme is we all want the same things. When its all said and done, money is money and fame is fame, I feel like we all just want the simple things. Thats what makes us happy, and it’s just about what means everything to you. I just want everyone to look inward and really think about what means a lot to them. Thats the whole concept behind EVERYTHING. Throughout the whole album I’m talking about things that mean everything to me, and what is it to have everything?