Out of last year’s most popular XXL Freshmen, Kodak Black is the first to drop a proper album. The Florida rapper is known for his gritty street anthems, where he brags about carrying weapons and doing drugs like it’s not a big deal. At 19 years old Black is street-wise beyond his years, allowing his storytelling to shine in a way that most young rappers can’t even fathom. This kind of ‘immature maturity’ continues on Painting Pictures, Black’s debut album, which combines his trap tunes with pop sensibilities.
Perhaps what makes Black stand out from his peers is his sense of melody. Like fellow XXL Freshman Lil Uzi Vert, Black’s voice is centerstage, even when the beats are booming. For example, “Patty Cake” uses a whimsical, piano-themed beat that’s reminiscent of Black’s prior song ‘Honey Bun.” The song’s prodution stands out for sure, but Black never cedes his spot as the track’s star, using his signature layered voice to rap about his success.
Somewhat rare these days, Black chooses to limit the amount of features on Painting Pictures, with only five features out of the 18-track record. Each though was properly chosen, as no unnecessary guest spots are present here. A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie gives a reflective chorus on “Reminiscing” about life pre-fame while Bun B lends a head bopping verse on “Candy Paint.” “Feeling Like” features Jeezy in an atmospheric-like setting, which plays into his echo-laced voice perfectly. Even Black’s decision to allow Young Thug to dominate the majority of “Top off Benz” was a good move, as it’s hard to top the latter once he’s in the groove. A smart decision that shows he knows how to craft a song.
The production on Painting Pictures is among the best in a debut album in recent memory. The album is littered with laidback, stripped down trap that suits Black’s flow and vibe well. Popular Black songs like “Skrt” and “Like Dat” would fit well on here, and the album should please longtime fans. “Off the Land,” “Coolin and Booted,” “U Ain’t Ever” and “There He Go” all highlight the production as well as Black’s vocals, which are mixed high into the song so his raps can stand tall. While the subject matter may not be the most varied, it doesn’t matter when Black’s delivery is solid and the aforementioned production is good enough to look past it.
Even at 18 tracks long, Painting Pictures remarkably doesn’t overstay its welcome, something other rappers 10 years older than him still have trouble with. It’s a shame legal troubles are stopping Black from properly blowing up and reaping the benefits from something he’s so good at. However, once those issues are behind him, it wouldn’t be surprising to see his star shine brighter than anyone else from the new school.
8.6 – 10