In August 2014, a little-known rapper from Pompano Beach, Florida uploaded a music video to YouTube for a song titled “No Flockin,” a hook-less freestyle from his then-upcoming Heart of the Projects mixtape. Twenty months later, “No Flockin” is that artist's biggest hit, surpassing 20 million plays and catching more and more fire by the day.
The name of that rapper is Kodak Black, a product of Broward County, FL and current purveyor of the Lisa Simpson haircut. He draws inspiration from Lil Boosie, immediately recognizable from his authoritative Southern drawl and penchant for hardened street tales often rooted in violence and money. The nihilism can be jarring considering Kodak is just 18, shades of Chief Keef's breakout, but understandable for someone still on the brink of adulthood raised in the bleak conditions of poverty. The raps are rooted in real life, just last October he was arrested on charges of robbery, assault, and kidnapping, among others.
Despite the fact that he’s since distanced himself from the Co-Sign God, Kodak’s name rose to prominence in the same fashion many newcomers seem to get noticed these days: Drake. Back in October of last year, Drake uploaded a video of himself (on a private jet, no less) dancing to “Skrt,” another record from Kodak, instantly raising him from relative obscurity to a Freshman cover contender. Weeks earlier, another post went up on Drizzy's IG with the caption "No Flockin."
Fast forward six months, and while we’re still skrting along with the newcomer, oddly it’s “No Flockin” that has taken over. Originally uploaded to YouTube in August of 2014 - yes, that was nearly two years ago - and labeled a freestyle, it’s far from your typical radio-ready single. It’s a single extended verse over a slow-building backdrop, kicking off with an ominous piano loop and adding layers of menacing basslines and equally haunting chants and strings. It's crazy to think that the song’s popularity would top that of “Skrt” with it's more traditional hook-bridge-verse structure and signature catchphrase, but there’s something addictive about “No Flockin.” Its impassioned rawness fits Kodak’s persona, its lo-fi visuals are a reminder of his true appeal, the streets.
A quick Google search results in little to no media coverage for “No Flockin." You won't find the song on the Billboard charts, either. Interestingly though, the song is just now experiencing its pinnacle, a testament to the wildfire tendencies of Internet virality. The song is just now reaching its peak of popularity - as in this very week - and is showing no signs of slowing down. After taking nearly 17 months to crack the five million play mark on YouTube, it's surpassed twelve in just the last three. Just look at Google Trends for the phrase “No Flockin,” where interest is nearly double the previous high from January, a half-year after Drake's first "cosign."
By comparison, Fetty Wap's "Trap Queen" was similarly released around eight months before it started receiving major radio play, it wasn't until over a year after its initial release that it truly became a hit. In this new world of music, driven by viral videos, Vines and YouTube, "No Flockin" is another reminder that big songs can come from anywhere and anytime, even years ago. Even without broad radio appeal, songs can take flight online without depending on recency or any marketing dollars spent. Kodak released a new project last December, Intuition, and while that effort is certainly buzzing, it pales in comparison to Kodak's even earlier material.
Where does Kodak go from here? It's hard to say considering his biggest hit is one of his least marketable. His projects are intimidating listens, usually made up of 20 plus tracks and he would do well to cut the filler, but moments like "No Flockin," "Skrt" and French Montana's "Lockjaw" (perhaps the standout track on a tape that also featured Kanye and Nas) indicate promise. An apt projection might be the career of his biggest inspiration, Boosie, who's remained more than relevant over the long haul thanks in part to a relentless drive to supply the streets.
Kodak's career could truly take off as unexpectedly as Fetty's, he could get signed off a SoundCloud algorithm, or he could be overtaken by the next hot song, maybe even one released years ago.
What a time to be alive, when timing doesn't matter like it once did.