With Protea, Kota the Friend is back with an upbeat rap album that sounds as good as it feels, but lacks the consistency or focus to elevate it beyond ‘vibes’.
There’s a real energy coursing through Protea, the new album from the prolific Kota The Friend. It’s his third project released so far this year, coming off the back of the collaborative To Kill a Sunrise produced by Statik Selektah, and Lyrics to Go Vol.4. The latter album is, as its title suggests, is the fourth record of throwaway lyrics that Kota released on top of his other records. Protea now brings the rapper’s catalogue to 11 albums in a little over five years.
It’s an impressive output, made all the more commendable by the fact each project has been released through his own, independent label, FLTBYS. Also impressive is the diversity of the sound, particularly clear on Protea. The record still falls under the hip-hop genre, but it’s trending very closely towards dance.
Kota is not the only artist to have recently fused these styles together, and some have been more successful than others. Kota’s Protea never sounds like an imitation. The music is still undeniably him, and despite the irreverance of the record, there are still moments of honesty, vulnerability and authenticity – qualities that have shaped so much of his first ten albums. The spoken interludes with his wife are the clearest examples, interspersed among the dancehall tunes.
Protea has an Anderson .Paak quality to lots of it. It’s decent company to be in, and it’s not that Kota does the singing-rapping as well as .Paak, but there are similarities to the cadence and production. This change in sonic direction was achieved through features from the link of WolfTyla, Alan Stone, Samm Henshaw, Zak Abel, Hello O’shay, Braxton Cook and, on the outro, Aloe Blacc.
At times on Protea, you can see the volume of Kota’s releases hindering the final product. You can expect the occasional misfire on projects titled Lyrics to Go, but oftentimes on Protea there are verses that sound a little like first drafts. They are certainly not the polished verses that Kota has long demonstrated he’s able to make.
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The production and feel of the record is able to make up for this, at least in part. It’s a big flash of yellow, like the album cover itself. It’s worth highlighting this album cover in its own right further; not only is it a perfect reflection of the sunshine and sand that infuses the record, but it’s a lovely piece of artwork.
Whether Protea will have the replay value of previous Kota records or not seems unlikely, but for the summer months ahead it’s a fitting soundtrack. ‘Nola II’, ‘Fireplace’ and ‘Autumn in Paris’ are all standouts, but this is the kind of album you can stick on in its entirety and just let it run.