18-year-old rapper Kodie Shane is back from the future of rap

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“I’m tired of talking, can you cut my check,” Atlanta rapper Kodie Shane coolly tosses off at the end of her verse on Lil Yachty’s posse cut “All In,” upstaging the eight other rappers on the track, including the Lil Boat himself. It’s no mean feat, recalling, for starters, Nicki Minaj’s infamous domination of her then-more famous male peers in “Monster.” But unlike Minaj, Shane’s prodigious potential (she turns 19 next month) doesn’t lean on lyrical dexterity. Instead, Shane relies on her skill for melody to take the mellow, R&B-inflected flow of Lil Yachty and Drake into something that can’t be easily boxed into rapping or singing.

“When I put out my first tape, I called it ‘2060,’ ‘cause I felt my music was a little bit before its time,” Kodie Shane said in a phone interview with The Daily Californian. Her latest EP, Back From the Future, has a startling example of this in the standout track “Level Up,” which effortlessly combines the trendy Caribbean beats of Drake’s More Life with Lil Uzi-esque auto-tune warbles in a way that’s 10 steps ahead of her peers.

Perhaps the key to Kodie Shane’s talent for melody is her deep-rooted ties to music. “I always just had music there, y’know,” referring to her family, which includes her sister Brandi Williams, a member of the girl group Blaque, and her aunt Cherrelle, the gold-certified ‘80s R&B singer. So it was no surprise when she started rapping at 15, keeping up the family tradition.  

The foundations for her debut were laid earlier, however, when she met her eventual longtime collaborators Matty P. Warm and D.Clax. “I knew Matty P. since I was like 14, and since he was like 14, and him and my mom were working together, and sooner or later, I convinced them to put their time and energy into me, and then they started to believe in me, and then we just started working together a lot. And in the midst of all of that, Matty and D.Clax and my mom got together (under the name) Greystone Park,” said Shane. Greystone Park is listed as Kodie Shane’s producer from time to time.

When asked if her mother is still involved in her career, Shane replied with, “Yup, every day. She’s doing my hair right now.”  

But Shane was truly discovered when she met Lil Yachty. “The first time I met him, I was at his show at the Masquerade, and I just hopped up there (on stage). I’m not even sure how I got up there, and I still don’t know, but it’s cool. I already knew Coach K (Lil Yachty’s manager) from before, and he was like, ‘Yo you gotta meet him,’ and then Matty and Coach were talking, and they wanted to link me and Yachty, and then we ended up linking.” Lil Yachty then adopted her into his eclectic “Sailing Team” rap crew and dropped a verse on her first hit song, “Sad,” which ended up racking up more than 6 million YouTube hits.

She got another influential rapper on her track too. “I’m the only person to put Lil Yachty and Uzi on the same song. I’m a GOAT,” Shane brags, referring to the track “Hold Up,” which came under controversy  after Lil Uzi Vert accused Shane of releasing it without his permission. Kodie Shane brushes off criticism easily, though — she admits,  “all publicity is good publicity.”

All of Kodie Shane’s collaborators have been men, which is not unusual in an industry where women have been a rarity, to the point where in 2010, only three female emcees were signed to major labels. “I don’t know, I don’t look at it as genders and all of that, I just look at it as go hard and get spotted or get not spotted, but I know that for girls, it’s harder. A guy can walk into a place and say anything he wants and do all this and they’ll be like ‘He’s a boss’ but then a girl goes and does it and ‘She’s a bitch.’ But with myself I look at it as I’m just running with the boys, I’m running by myself, and I don’t think about nobody else.”

And it’s not hard to see how Kodie Shane might run into resistance, with her frank bisexuality and femininity in her lyrics. Perhaps the reason why she hasn’t — and maybe the reason why Lil Yachty didn’t when he featured a gay couple kissing on his album Teenage Emotions — is because she’s “all about good energy, good vibes, and all of that good stuff,” said Shane. “I make music for me, my gang, and all of my fans, and we just like to turn up.” And her infectious good vibes cross all the boundaries that might separate her from the traditional rapper archetype.

When asked what her fans can expect from her upcoming record, Shane responded, characteristically, “Super. Hot. Fire.” And why not believe her? It’s not like she’s let anyone down yet.

Contact Adesh Thapliyal at [email protected].