With his second studio album, Floridian rapper Kodak Black delivers a tale of hardship and struggle that takes in lost friends and the effects of fame. After a year spent mostly in prison, he returns to the rap game with an album composed of 16 different stories of violence, pain, and anti-social behaviour.
Addressing his various felonies of credit card fraud (though not the sexual assault allegation that caused him to recently storm out of an interview), Kodak attempts to present himself as an example of how not to live: on the track “Malcolm X.X.X.”, he insists, “Listen, do as I say, don’t do as I do”. On the preachy opener ‘Testimony’, he states his life’s story, relaying countless hardships, pointing out that he still made it to fame and, more importantly, out of his situation. It’s a testimony that others can do the same: “I’m God-sent, like He sent me up so I can relay these messages.”
And when Kodak preaches, people listen. His huge breakthrough track, “No Flockin”, had such a colossal success that when Cardi B adopted its flow into ‘Bodak Yellow, the track that caused her to blow up into one of the greatest female rappers of her generation. It’s an undeniable testament to Kodak Black’s enormous influence.
‘Dying To Live’ features guest spots from the likes of Lil Pump and Juice Wrld, who bring an upbeat feel to the album; Kodak rides this to express himself with trademark braggadocio. This tone isn’t abrasive or over-confident – rather, it’s the rapper’s way of maintaining his image of a young man who is full of self-love and remembers his roots. He does this most notably on the minimalistic yet impactful track ‘This Forever’, on which he states that he’s “cut from a different cloth / I’m a different fabric”. It’s a boast backed up by his flow, as he constantly changes up his vocal delivery.
In addition to this restless approach, his breezy smash hit ’ZEZE’, featuring Migos’ Offset and Travis Scott, is packed with energy. There’s a buoyant, lightweight vibrancy here, which helps to balance out an album that could otherwise be weighed down methodical lyrics about with heavy lyrics about gang activity.
Throughout ‘Dying To Live’, Kodak delivers a vibe that’s versatile and raw, packed with clever, complex storytelling. Yet the record doesn’t become self-indulgent; the rapper never forgets his audience, peppering his more uncompromising material with all-out bangers. A compelling album characteristic of Florida’s fertile rap scene.