The 25 years young Brooklyn native, KOTA The Friend, makes his first appearance on our pages today. With three solid projects, a collection of singles, videos, and more, the independent rapper has been on our radar for a minute. He will be playing at Reggies in Chicago on August 23rd.
KOTA manifests the classic New York style into a California paradise. Palm trees and sandy beaches contrast the depression and real life problems that can be faced when coming to age in New York. Check out our full interview below:
rubyhornet: For any of our readers not familiar, who is KOTA The Friend?
KOTA The Friend: KOTA The Friend is an artist in the purest sense of the word. I believe that while art can be monetized, it will outlive any industry. It will always be important. I’m a musician. I’m a classically trained trumpet player and I taught myself guitar, bass, and keyboard. I’ve been writing poetry since I could remember which made the transition to rapping seamless. I’m a self taught pro – cinematographer and video editor. I’ve shot hundreds of music videos for artists from New York City to California to Japan. I love creating and I create as much as I can.
rubyhornet: You were born and raised in New York, but you mention California a lot. What do these places mean to you?
KOTA The Friend: For a long time New York has represented some dark times in my life that I wanted to escape from. Out here on the East Coast we were constantly talking about getting out of the city and moving to LA where the sun is always shining and the palm trees tower over highways. My first 2 projects were mainly about escaping to find something new and better, so that’s why I reference California a lot.
New York is home, it’s where things get real for me. I’ve recently started to express my feelings towards my hometown and I plan on telling the stories of me and my friends in my new music + the album.
rubyhornet: What’s your definition of a friend?
KOTA The Friend: A friend is someone that you can depend on. A friend is someone that you can bring the worst news to and they can make you feel like its going to be okay. A friend will love you for the person you are and doesn’t judge you for being imperfect.
rubyhornet: Your lyrics are very honest. How do you approach writing a new song?
KOTA The Friend: Every song I write is true to my experience. Almost every time I begin with the music. I hear an instrumental and I get to writing, singing melodies and rapping gibberish. Then once I get in the groove I put my life onto the page until I’ve painted a vivid enough picture. I always tell the truth in my music because that’s the only way I can connect. You can tell when people are disingenuous so I keep it real.
rubyhornet: The growth from Palm Tree Liquor to Anything is evident. If you could go back in time and tell yourself anything while recording Palm Tree Liquor, what would that be?
KOTA The Friend: Thank you for noticing the growth! I honestly wouldn’t tell myself anything because my life is so beautiful now and I wouldn’t want to mess with the natural order. I was in such a dark place when I created Palm Tree Liquor and even Paloma Beach. Every day I’m just grateful that I’m no longer in that space and I’m reaching more people with my music.
rubyhornet: You speak on depression and suicide on past projects. What advise would you give to someone who feels boxed in due to their mental health? Has music helped you get out of this stage?
KOTA The Friend: It’s not always easy trying to get someone out of depression. A depressed person can often be their own worst enemy. In my personal experience dealing with depression, I felt alone like many others. I felt like a failure, like I didn’t matter, like even God was against me and I hated myself. I turned my life around when I started to be grateful for the little things I did have. I would tell a depressed person that they are worth so much and that they are in control even if they don’t feel like they are. Even if you’ve been making the same mistakes for 5 years you can decide to live your life different from this day on. You don’t have to be the negative things that “they” say or think you are. I would tell a depressed person to take time to get to know the real you. If you don’t like something about yourself you can change it but you have to be honest with yourself about who you are and then make adjustments. No matter what, don’t let the thoughts of others define you. They are dealing with their own struggles and imperfections. On top of all of that, IT’S NOT ALL ABOUT YOU. Other people are struggling mentally and it’s important to understand this. Be kind to everyone no matter what.
rubyhornet: As an independent artist is it a goal of yours to become signed?
KOTA The Friend: Not really. I like being indie. It’s super fun. But I don’t know what the future holds. I’m making music, feeding my family and I get to be around my son all the time so I’m happy right here
rubyhornet: What are some plans from here on out?
KOTA The Friend: Just keep making music, touring, experiencing new things, eating healthy, being a better person and keep showing my people love. That’s it.