Rarely does a sequel actually elevate upon the original. For Kota the Friend’s Lyrics to Go series, Volume 2 displays some of the most potent raps we’ve heard from the Clinton Hill, Brooklyn-bred spitter. While it’s not a fully composed body of work with full songs, each track offering at less than two minutes, it feels entirely composed. Lyrics to Go Vol. 1 seemed like unfinished fleeting thoughts, while this follow-up contains intentional sequencing and completed ideas.
There is even something enticing about the innate cohesion of a project like this, even without traditional song structures. There is never any moment resembling filler or self-indulgence. Kota raps his point then is onto his next observation. He begins with an ode to his come-up in his old neighborhood on “Clinton Hill,” over fluttering synthy keyboard and sparse boom-bap drums. Kota raps, “Used to be the lil homie walkin’ wit his eyes down / CD playin’ Biggie and Pac, Jigga and Nas loud / Always appreciated the sunny days / Know in’ that I had to be grounded before the money came.”
You feel the nostalgia within the whole of the delivery, then swiftly, you are swept to track two “Luke Cage.” This track has a smooth switch to current intention rather than pure reflection as Kota raps, “I feel like ima cheat death the way that I cheat life.” Through these first two captivating verses, we are off on the journey.
Throughout the rest of the project, Kota floats through essential subjects of gentrification, ownership, peace of mind, family, and grace. The three-track semi climactic sequence of “Emotionally Dumb” to “Santa Barbara” to “Pomegranate” is when you hear Kota at his best. He sonically and lyrically processes anxious and depressive patterns. Kota goes from internalized human self-deprecation to escapist coping mechanisms to a carefully placed moment of silence. He then finally concludes with healing through faith and love. As Kota raps, “All you want is peace, and that’s comes with a whole different struggle homie and nothin’ free,” as a listener, you feel fulfilled. You hear Kota accept he must put in the work and trust the process to find clarity.
Kota seems to have used the pandemic to cycle through a range of conundrums that have resulted in raps filled with lucidity. He just announced a collaborative project with a secret artist and a full album coming later this year, and I can’t wait to hear how his new mindset translates to hooks combined with raps like these.