Brooklyn emcee Kota the Friend has officially unveiled highly anticipated studio album PROTEA. The 16-track record instantly becomes an interesting outlier in fltbys rapper’s discography, exploring new sounds, and continued creativity in the landscape of contemporary, independent hip-hop.
PROTEA boasts an impressive lineup of collaborations that enhance the album’s sonic diversity and appeal. Kota the Friend seamlessly integrates guest artists such as WolfTyla, Alan Stone, Samm Henshaw, Zak Abel, Hello O’shay, Braxton Cook, and more, creating a cohesive and engaging listening experience. These collaborations bring fresh perspectives and distinct styles to the table, adding dynamic textures to the songs. Album rollout led with three singles; Red Lights (feat. Hello O’shay), Hope You Heal, and Barcelona (feat. Samm Henshaw).
PROTEA leans into a vibrant sonic landscape, characterized by infectious rhythms, lush instrumentation, and meticulously crafted production. Kota’s attention to detail shines through in the instrumentation and sound design. He skillfully layers various musical elements to create a cohesive and immersive experience. From palpitating bass lines to the shimmering synths and captivating melodies, every sonic component works in harmony, creating real cohesion from an aesthetic standpoint.
Tracks like Forget About It (feat. Zak Abel) and Autumn in Paris (feat. Braxton Cook) are examples that lean extra hard into the dance vibes. While these songs employ a more uptempo, pop-type vibe than we are used to from Kota, they are still infused with elements of soul and jazz, creating that natural link between the experimental and Kota the Friend standards.
Kota’s lyrical prowess is on full display throughout PROTEA. Furthermore, his introspective and thought-provoking lyricism artfully touches on themes of self-discovery, perseverance, and the pursuit of dreams. Kota’s exceptional ability to paint vivid pictures allows listeners to deeply connect with his message. Moreover, the album is ingeniously linked with three spoken word interludes, which primarily focus on intimate aspects of love. From personal anecdotes to analyzing the reasons why people are special to us, these interludes seamlessly serve as the connective tissue between the lively and energetic tracks.
Among our early favorites are Fireplace (feat. Jennifair) and Super Rare (feat. Hello O’shay). Fireplace relies heavily on the idea that when we love someone, we’ll do anything to step up for them. To become someone they can always rely on and trust to take care of us. In the first couple bars Kota spits, “You think you ain’t doing enough, I think you doing too much/I’m taking care of it so you can do what you want.” Lush vocal layers from Chicago singer/songwriter Jennifair add great texture and emotion to a bright and meaningful joint.
Meanwhile, Super Rare leans into a dope jazz piano lick, vibrant brass, and an insane beat switch up into sparse strings. Kota comes out swinging on this joint, lyrically, and with the wordplay. “In the Maldives n*gga, you don’t know a damn thing bout me N*gga/Try to come back, but you found me with her/Fumbled the bag and that’s sad.” He goes on to demonstrate just how rare his woman is on the hook, comparing her to a 2 dollar bill, and OG 1 J’s. Overall, this the one for us.
Throughout PROTEA, the album is replete with clever wordplay, metaphors, and poignant storytelling, which unequivocally showcase Kota’s ability to craft captivating narratives. Importantly, each track unveils a new layer of introspection, effectively leaving listeners fully engrossed in the immersive storytelling experience. PROTEA serves as a powerful lesson in experimentation. Kota the Friend fearlessly embraces new sounds and personas, skillfully creating something fresh and exhilarating. As any master of a creative craft knows, embarking on such artistic experiments is a crucial catalyst for growth.