Finding a sense of calm is one of the hardest things to do in a city with as much visual and audible noise as New York. Kota The Friend is garnering a lot of hype already because of his ability to smoothly narrate the complexities of his life. He's found a sense of balance which most spend their lives trying to reach. His reflective lyricism is so refreshing and his brutal honesty captivating. We sat down with the New York-based MC, discussing his new project Paloma Beach, how music first entered his life, and popular culture's effect on his strong lyricist style. Enjoy.
How did music enter your life and when did you decide that it would shape it? When did you make the decision to take it more seriously?
Music has always been an essential part of my life. As a kid, I was always excited when new music came out and when my older brother introduced me to new stuff. I started playing trumpet in elementary school and was put in the accelerated music program within weeks of learning to play. In the following years, I picked up keyboard, guitar and bass guitar. Not too long after that, I started making beats, rapping and singing. In college, I began to take music a bit more seriously because people were really enjoying the music and were actually becoming fans. Ever since then I've been doing this music thing for real.
What are you hoping to achieve with this project?
With Paloma Beach, I want to say some things that need to be said. I hope to free people from the shackles of society, remove stigmas, creating a healthy environment for people to thrive mentally, emotionally and spiritually. I became a better person while making this project. I want others to listen and decide that they want to be better themselves. I hope it reaches the masses because I really want to change lives for the better.
You grew up in Clinton Hill, a neighbourhood that has seen a lot of change in your time there. How has the changing neighbourhood affected you, your music and your outlook?
I've lived in Clinton Hill for 20 years. When we first moved there the neighbourhood hadn't been hit by gentrification so I watched all the black folks move out and all the rich white folks move in. It definitely made me feel out of place after a while even though I was native. I was forced to look at race different because newcomers were giving me funny looks as if I didn't belong. I sometimes hit upon those topics in my music.
Your music is well crafted, your lyricism is powerful and you act as a contrast to a lot of the music that's doing well today. How does popular culture play into your process?
I stay disconnected from most pop culture in order to stay authentic and continue being myself. I feel that pop culture is this bleached and processed thing used for the money people. I'm not too interested in that which has no substance. It's like junk food, and sadly it's the only thing that some people eat.
How does Paloma Beach as an ethos and message represent to you?
Paloma Beach is the place you go to be yourself, be honest, understanding, kind, forgiving, accepting and light hearted. Paloma Beach is mental freedom from all the things trying to bring you down. Paloma Beach is a place you take with you wherever you go, granting you inner peace through the darkest times and the brightest.