The controversial Atlantic Records rapper Kodak Black is back from incarceration this Valentine’s Day with a new LP, Heart Break Kodak.
Known for his repetitious, catchy flow, heavy trap beats, and unapologetically violent bars like that of contemporaries Chief Keef and 21 Savage, Kodak Black takes on a a new avenue of R&B on this latest release. He opts for a more vulnerable tone and favors topics of love, loneliness, and loyalty, which may be off-putting for both fans and critics alike. While musically, Kodak does deliver some hard-hitting beats and catchy hooks, most of his lyrical “sensitivity” is overshadowed by not only his well-known sexual assault charges, but also his problematic perspective on what “sensitivity” towards a woman even means.
Kicking off the album is the admittedly addictive “Running Outta Love”, where Kodak laments about his quota of love for this woman having ran out, to his dismay. Though Kodak seems incredibly miffed, he neglects to mention anything she’s actually done to him, instead coming out with bars like “I’ve been runnin’ outta trust you ain’t worthy/ Fell into some feelings, now I’m dirty/ Brush me off, dust if off, shut your mouth, cut it out”. Here, it’s clear that he wants nothing to do with her, and doesn’t mind reminding her how undeserving she is of his “love”.
This theme of Kodak’s woman being in his power, whether he decides to pursue her or leave her, carries throughout the album. The song “Hate Being Alone” has a whiny, desperate Kodak cooing for a woman with manipulative pleas: “I don’t need an awful time in the cage (Had enough time in the cell)/ I don’t wanna be away from you, babe (Let’s be by ourselves)”. He interestingly uses his “time in the cage” to victimize himself, when it is a well known fact that his sexual harassment charges (among others) got him there in the first place. “Acting Weird” also includes this strange angle of blaming the woman for not understanding where he’s coming from, delivered repetitiously and out of breath on top of a very 2009 era Gucci Mane-esque beat.
Perhaps his only sign of remorse for his behavior comes on the track “Corrupted”. Rapping over a slow, saccharine R&B beat with a sprinkling of piano riffs, Kodak insists, “Deep in my heart lookin’ for the love I had/ My heart was gold/But these dirty streets turned it black”. But is that an excuse for treating women like garbage?
Kodak raps from a sphere of bloodshed and debauchery, bringing light to the hardships and struggles he grew up in. But in a time of women saying #MeToo, this excuse seems to be falling flatter and flatter. Heartbreak Kodak’s attempt at vulnerability unfortunately comes off as confusing more than anything- he appears disingenuous throughout most of the album, and his few glimmers of raw emotion are buried under layers of either vulgarity or empty hooks. He underwhelms on this attempt at R&B, alienating his fans who live for his tough exterior shown on previous hits like “No Flockin”, “Tunnel Vision”, and “Roll in Peace”.
Kodak Black had a chance to make a statement with this album, one about the complexity of mixing a painful background on the streets with genuine romance, but to the dismay of many fans, his arrogance that got him behind bars also landed him a mediocre (at best) LP.