"I don't rap, I illustrate. I don't paint pictures, I picture-paint."
That's the opening line and mission statement of Kodak Black's debut album, a perfect blend of cleverness and sheer idiocy that sums up the Florida rapper's music.
Unfortunately, there's far more of one than the other in the 18 track-long Painting Pictures.
To Kodak's credit, the album starts like a rapid fire burst from the Uzi he regularly mentions. Its opening trio of songs take the best traits of the best tracks on his previous mixtapes Lil Big Pac and Institution — taking spacey, soulful trap beats and simple, profound observations about Kodak's upbringing, full of poverty and crime.
"I was already sentenced, before I came up out the womb/ Streets done already sentenced me, before no cracker could," he warbles on opening cut "Day For Day."
Moments of lyrical clarity like that, when Kodak's observations cut through the thick twang of his voice, are easily the highlights of the record. After all, he's never had a problem with authenticity — since the minor hit song "SKRT" launched his career, the Floridian has spent most of his time in-and-out of prison, fighting a number of charges. If anything, it's proof that Kodak still has a foot in his old life, and that comes across on songs like the brilliant rap-fan criticism "Candy Paint" with Bun B and the Metro Boomin-produced Top 10 hit "Tunnel Vision."
Unfortunately, the duality of Kodak's life is, in fact, a double-edged sword. While the real life Boyz n the Hood narratives work well, the rapper isn't, well, much of a rapper. His voice is tight and uncomfortable, and he lacks the melodic sense of his new school peers Lil Yachty and Lil Uzi Vert. Great lines are few and far between — but at least the rest of the lyrics aren't terrible.
Oh wait, yes they are.
"I'm the shit, baby girl, so I got stains in my drawers," he raps on the frustratingly catchy "Patty Cake," which sounds like it could have been on a 2011 Mac Miller mixtape.
That's just one of perhaps a dozen "I'm the shit, fecal matter, get it?" lines, formulaic in structure and disgusting in delivery. And if that's not crude enough for you, just wait until he raps "Baby girl, that p—- wetter than chicken noodle soup/ Baby girl, that p—- sound like ramen noodle soup" on the gross "Up In Here."
It's actually a shame to get 40 seconds into a listenable song only to hear a lyric so suspect it completely takes you out of the song. In fact, Kodak's generic gangsterisms on songs like "There He Go" are preferable to the cringy, corporeal punchlines he falls back on so often.
There's a lot of potential on Painting Pictures — the production is consistently stellar, providing shiny, rich-sounding trap backdrops, and Kodak's ear for features is excellent (save for the strangely terrible Young Thug feature on "Top Off Benz," but you don't say no to Jeffrey). At an hour, it's certainly too long, and doesn't offer the diversity to justify repeated listens. But if nothing else, it's an engaging enough debut to continue listening to Kodak as he continues to mature and develop as an artist and, hopefully, a person.