There’s undoubtedly an urge to make Florida-born rapper Kodak Black some sort of hip hop martyr, a 19-year-old who has been unfairly characterized by music press and wrongfully targeted by police. Such a notion of course glosses over the fact that Black spent a long stretch of 2016 in jail for leading the cops on a chase after buying weed. (Something that could’ve ended much worse for Black.) And there’s the far more serious charge of sexual battery awaiting him in South Carolina. If that one’s proven to be true, he could go away for a long time and understandably so.
That temptation to spin him into some sort of martyr makes sense because we do it all the time. While many people can’t separate the facts of a person’s life, plenty more are willing to compartmentalize a person and rationalize bad life decisions by pointing to unmitigated successes. ESPN’s Bomani Jones discussed this on his Right Time show last week (December 1), relaying a quote that we’re willing to forgive a lot when someone’s got bars.
And Black undoubtedly has bars. The kid’s talent jumps of the page on a song such as “There He Go,” his first since getting out of jail. He’s got some of the primo Gucci Mane marble-mouthed delivery which makes you lean in more. He’s spitting over the sort of dinky beat that dudes such as Gucci or Boosie absolutely feast on. And he gets in some lines that will absolutely lodge in your brain (“I don’t brush my teeth all I do is floss” is a bit of swagged-out nonsense that’s now stuck in my head). It’s all there in the song and the unvarnished video which features him hanging with friends and family. You understand what makes him a vital young voice in hip hop. If that voice is muted it’ll be clear why. Talent and vitality can’t obscure glaring mistakes.