Kodak Black’s Pistolz & Pearlz is likely to be the Florida rapper’s final album with Atlantic Records, but he seems as uninterested making the album as I am listening to it.
Starting your album with the title track is a risky strategy. If it works, it works – the song serves as the first, and hopefully lasting impression, providing the ideal platform from which to launch the rest of the project. Take Meek Mill’s Dreams and Nightmares, a breakthrough release catapulted by the titular track off the bat.
If, however, you start your album with the title track and it proves to be a disappointment, it’s a sign of what’s to come. This is the position Kodak Black finds himself in on Pistolz & Pearlz. The opening track is lazy and disinterested, and though the album starts slowly, it only gets worse.
It’s frustrating from an artist who has shown, over the best part of the last decade, that he’s capable of making good music. There are even glimpses – so few and far between they are barely worth a mention – of that talent here.
The expectation with Kodak Black is never going to be for a polished, conceptual 20-track record, but you hope for a few songs. It’s an imperfect science, that croon of his. At its best, hypnotic and melodic; at its worst – when even Kodak himself seems to barely care – the music is almost insultingly bad.
On Pistolz & Pearlz, Kodak seems as uninterested in making the record as I am in listening to it. He’s firing half-baked verses from the hip, using features to cover his own lack of effort, the lack of mastery making it sound like Kodak’s heartbroken and blackout in some rundown, South Florida karaoke bar.
The features are packed towards the front of the album. The appearance from Vvsnce, who carries almost the entirety of the second track, is impressive, particularly compared to the abomination compiled by Kodak and GorditoFlo on ‘Flirting With Death’. Auto-tuned to the point that listening is like wading through a Florida marshland – and not in some intrepid sense, but more a you’re-incapable-of-escaping-the-alligators-chasing-you sense – the two almost match each other with lethargy, GorditoFlo’s verse in Spanish no doubt the low point on Pistolz & Pearlz.
Surprisingly, the album does improve slightly in the middle. Songs become lost amid Kodak’s voice and his alone, but we begin to see some vulnerability. This alone is not enough to elevate them to good songs – the lack of consideration and sound quality remains – but they do better showcase the abilities that we know Kodak has.
The pre-released single, ‘No love for a single Thing’, is probably the best song on the album. This, in itself, is not saying much, but it begs the question why Kodak has decided to tuck it away at 20th on the tracklist. Any poor soul evaluating the project in its entirety will be struggling with their own sanity by this point.
One could argue that the disinterest apparent on this record is an artistic choice. Coupled with Kodak’s melancholy and heartache, it might be. Regardless of deliberate or otherwise, it hasn’t worked. His singing voice is palatable in short spurts, not for over an hour, and if he is going to employ it so relentlessly, it needs to be handled better than he and his team have on Pistolz & Pearlz.