First Listen #63: Kota the Friend’s ‘To Kill a Sunrise’

Welcome back to “I Finally Listen to a Project from an Artist I’ve Wanted to Hear an Album from for a Long Time” featuring Kota the Friend. I’ve been actively avoiding listening to Kota’s music for the past year or so because he’s been so hyped up by the music sources I tend towards that I’ve been worried that I’d listen to him and not like what I hear (and be very disappointed). But I was looking through a list of projects released last Friday and decided that today was the day. Especially since the album was going to feature production done entirely by Statik Selektah. I went through a strong Pro Era phase in the early 2010s, and Statik Selektah’s beats were all up and through Pro Era’s songs and albums. He’s super talented, and from what I’d heard about Kota, the two of them together would be something special. I figured that To Kill a Sunrise (2021) would give me the best of both worlds – a little of something old and a little of something new. Plus, with a title like that, I couldn’t let it slip. 

Photo Credit:

2021: To Kill a Sunrise

(via Genius)

I don’t know if it was because I was listening to this project while on a walk, but something about it brought me a lot of peace. I couldn’t get out of my head that it reminded me of the music I listened to in high school. It actually took me to listen to “Heavenly Father” by Isaiah Rashad later on in the day to realize what that meant for me. I feel like a lot of the music I was listening to in high school was very vulnerable, honest, and self-reflective (it still is now, but I’m making a point lol). In fact, a nice chunk of it dealt with some pretty strong emotions and mental spaces. At that time, I was listening to a lot of Kid Cudi, Because the Internet (2013) by Childish Gambino, good kid, m.A.A.d City (2012) by Kendrick Lamar, and Channel Orange (2012) by Frank Ocean. And many other projects like those. All of those projects (to some extent) center on the idea that knowing yourself and being honest with yourself are non-negotiables. And the majority of that exploration dealt with some pretty strong emotions and mental spaces. 

Thank you for even listening, siftin’ through all the dissonance

Me and Statik consider this compilation felicitous

Thank you for pressing play, they been trying to kill a sunrise

But you can’t contain the sun, trust me, we have just begun

Hear me running from behind

Showing you the silver lining as I show you where I’m from

I got Brooklyn in my head, New York City in my lungs

They gon’ miss me when I’m dead, do not let that make you glum

Everybody gotta go

But as long as I am stuck in this body I’m slingin’ hope and healthier ways to cope


Of course, every project doesn’t have to be like that; making an album doesn’t require an artist to expose the deepest parts of themselves. And I’m a big proponent of recognizing the importance of music as a space of joy and happiness. Sometimes you just need something to dance to. But it is special when an artist can put those heavy and intense feelings into a song that other people can relate to. It was/is comforting to be surrounded by that.

And that’s something that Kota the Friend does on this project. Kota uses Statik Selektah’s beautiful production as a backdrop to thoughts on past his failures, current successes, hopes and dreams, his highest highs, and lowest lows. And it just feels so…human. And tangible. There’s a Saba quote that I keep in the back of my mind where (when talking about his song “LIFE” from CARE FOR ME (2018)) he says the song works because anyone could sub out his specific moments in the song for their own. It allows people to have a deeper connection with the track. I think that same concept applies here. Everything he says on here – even if I haven’t experienced them specifically – feels familiar. I could swap out his insecurities for my own and connected to the songs deeper because of that. And there’s a special place in my heart for albums like this. I think my favorite songs on here are “Sunrise,” “The Love,” “Day Glow,” and “The Cold.” And I’m only calling those four out because the production on there is more chef’s kiss than the other tracks. By like 2%. But there’s something about every song on here that I like. I also must say that listening to this after the Week Fulla 90s East Coast Hip Hop last week hits a little different because I can hear (and recognize) Wu-Tang and A Tribe Called Quest influences in this project. I don’t think specific samples or interpolations are guiding that, but I feel the throughline there. 

After listening to To Kill a Sunrise, I got a strong urge to listen through some of Kota the Friend’s old projects. I’m interested to see how the stories he told on this project fill out with extra details from former albums. All in all, this project is a winner. I’m glad I finally gave Kota a listen.

Overall Project Rating

Featured Image via Noise 11

(listen to To Kill a Sunrise on Spotify by clicking the image below)

here’s something else you might like…

Week Fulla 90s East Coast Hip Hop – First Listen #62: Mobb Deep’s ‘The Infamous’

We’ve reached the end of this week of traveling back in time to 90s New York, and we’re finishing off with Havoc and Prodigy from Mobb Deep. Mobb Deep is a group that has existed more on the periphery of my hip hop experience than the other folks this week. It’s been clear before now … Continue reading Week Fulla 90s East Coast Hip Hop – First Listen #62: Mobb Deep’s ‘The Infamous’

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