To paraphrase the ever-prescient Kylie Jenner, 2016 has been the year of realizing stuff. And in the world of hip-hop, no realization has carried more weight than the one that a new generational shift has taken hold. Young artists like Lil Yachty and Lil Uzi Vert, following in the tradition of innovators like Chief Keef and iLoveMakonnen, have reshaped hip-hop's ascendent sound into something more atmospheric and melodic. Frankly, it's not hard to understand the skepticism that creates among traditionalists tied to the idea of lyricism as the genre's core value. But then you meet someone like Kodie Shane, and all your cynicism evaporates.
Kodie Shane is a member of Lil Yachty's Sailing Team collective, its only female face. Where many of her companions in the group are shyly silly, she's lively and ebullient, a natural entertainer—watch her hitting her stance and grinning playfully in Yachty's "All In" video, for example. Although she is separately signed to Epic Records (a friend of her mother's scored her an audition with LA Reid, and the rest is history), her music crackles with the same precocious teen DIY energy that has made Yachty such a breakout star. The video for her and Yachty's song "Sad," which features cameos from most of the Sailing Team and which we are premiering below, has the aura of a goofy after-school project, carried as much by the excitement of just doing it as anything else, even though Kodie and her friends are already moving in relatively rarified industry circles.
I met Kodie just a few days after her 18th birthday, when she stopped by the VICE offices to record a segment for Noisey Radio on Beats 1 (listen here) in advance of her debut major label EP, Zero Gravity, out today. Peppering her speech with calls for positivity, many reassurances that things were "lit," and a healthy dose of "bro"s, her teenage enthusiasm was contagious. She told me she'd decided she didn't have a future in comedy by explaining, "I realized like nah, I don't really get laughs so I'm not going to choose that job," a comment that suggested the opposite was true. Her sense of melody makes her music, an airy interpretation of contemporary rap's sing-song experimental fringe, feel like floating, and her animated demeanor is itself a breath of fresh air.
Noisey: You moved to Atlanta in eighth grade. Did you meet people there who were involved in music?
Kodie Shane: I wasn't into music like that. I wanted to be an actress, like taking classes and doing all of that, and then acting broke my heart. For a minute I was not going to do anything. I was going to play basketball. My mom got a studio during that time, so I would go there every day after school. Even if I wasn't doing nothing, I would just sit in the corner of the room. I would tell 'em like, "I wanna do music," and they would throw me in the B room with the engineer and be like "all right, whatever you want to do." They would hear stuff and be like not really rocking with. When I wrote "Sad" and they heard "Sad," they was like "yeah it's undeniable right now. It's too good." 'Cause before I was like "I'm a rapper." So when I started like singing on songs and stuff, I actually talk about stuff, that's when it was like, "hm, this is cool, I like this."
How did you connect with Lil Yachty?
His manager, Coach, used to come to the studio all the time and just see me. He was really cool. So then I was at a show at Masquerade—I think it was Lil Yachty's show, and it was when he started getting big bills. I'd always seen Yachty around, like this kid with red hair. We were always in the same scene kind of. You know, Carti, people like that. But I'd never really talked to him like that until I was at his show at Masquerade and I seen Coach backstage and Coach was like, "what's up? I manage Yachty" and I was like "that's hella dope!" So that's when he introduced me to Yachty, and we took a picture and whatever.
I told my management I wanted Yachty to get on "Sad." That is literally that is all I wanted. 'Cause I was like, "he would do something really great on here." My mom was like, "nah! Yachty won't sound good. Give him something else, give him something other than that!" I was like, "he's gonna like it, Ma!" And then when I got in there I was like, I'm playing this bro. I don't care what you guys say. He's getting on this. It definitely made me happy. He's a dope guy. Some people you meet and it's like relationships like, yeah it's music. And then some people you meet and it's like, wow, we actually click! You're cool! Like I can get along with you, we can relate. We can go and eat and we don't have to talk about music or we can text. That's why me and Yachty get along so well.
You wrote that song when you were like 14. What's it about?
I feel like it was probably something lame, relationship wise. Don't ever get mad. That is lame though! Bro, don't do it, don't let it make you sad. I was a freshman, and I just had came to the studio, and I was super down. I'll always love that song because I was actually feeling like that. I initially made the song for people to feel like sometimes it's okay to be sad. You know what I'm saying? Like the whole "depressed and die" wave isn't really cool, but it's okay to have a good cry or it's okay to be like "man, I'm sad. I'm hella sad right now." You miss somebody—and it can go to anything. That's why I feel like the record is way bigger than just sad 'cause I miss my boy or my girl. You know? It's just it's just a big thing—like you coulda been sad over anything. It was like real emotion in there.
It's pretty lit!
So now you're part of the Sailing Team. What is the Sailing Team like?
We're making good music. It's for the youth. We're just trying to show the youth not to be scared and to just do whatever you want. Like if you want to have red hair with beads, have red hair with beads, bro! You do whatever you want. It's dope! It's my brothers. After going on tour we had a real connection.
And you're the only girl.
Yeah. I am baby sis.I'm First Lady.
What's that like?
That's like having eight brothers and living in a bus! Literally! Like, OK, I didn't think I didn't think guys like Frank Ocean like that. But they love it! And it made me happy! Like you would wake up on the tour bus, and sometimes you'd hear some Gucci or some trap, but then some days you wake up and you're like "Frank Ocean's playing right now, this is lit!" But then it's like I have eight brothers, and they're weird and mannish. It's eight or nine boys, and I'm a girl. But I love 'em.
You have a big song right now, "Hold Up," with Lil Yachty and Lil Uzi Vert. What's the story on it?
I guess that story's pretty crazy 'cause Uzi said it was fake.
I think it was early December, and we did "Way Up," the song we have originally. And then my producer Matty and DJ Spinz made this beat for me, the "Hold Up" beat. I didn't touch the beat for a minute, so then when we went to go see Uzi we were like, Uzi might want to get on this. It had nothing on it. So we played the beat, and Uzi's like, "yo let's record that." So he comes up with the hook—"hold up ooh ooh"—and then his verse. The hook wasn't finished—it was like just his part and it was like an open four or five, six bars, so I get on that: "Diamonds all up on me and they're frozen." And we go back to the studio. This is the first day I met Lil Yachty. Yachty's sitting right there, Uzi's right there. This is my first time with Yachty—we didn't even talk. Uzi's like, "I like that, we gonna keep that." So boom.
Later, I asked them if I could release that as my song. My management asked his management. They're like "yeah!" So obviously his management is not relaying any type of message to Uzi. I text Yachty. I'm like "yo! Hop on this." Yachty sends it back literally within an hour—not even. We told Uzi we're about to put it out: You put out Lil Uzi Vert vs. The World; it's obvious you don't wanna use it. You done put out so many tapes. Once he heard we was finally dropping the song he was like "nah don't drop that" or "that's my song, blah blah blah." Like super miscommunication. I was super annoyed just based on like the fact like, dude, you got like how many hit records? I'm just like, I'm gonna call him to see what's up. He's not answering none of my calls. And you know, he's like ignoring my calls while I'm sitting there next to Yachty, and he's calling Yachty. It's kinda lame, but I don't really care. I'm not getting my feelings hurt about it. Next day we drop our record.
He felt like he didn't want him and Yachty's first song to come out like that. OK! I feel that! But if anything, I'm the GOAT, bro. Lil Yachty and Uzi have no song except with me. Lil Boat looks at me and said "wait—you the GOAT!" He said, "me and Uzi don't got no songs. You did it." But if you felt like that, and you really are like, "I do not want me and Lil Yachty's song to come out like this," if you really would have called me like "Kodie I want to talk to you," I would have took him off based off our relationship, you know what I'm saying? But you treat it like I'm just some goofy out here and we never met. That's not cool. I'm a little girl! I'm 18, bro! Come on! I would have been like "Im'a let you make a little money off that." Why not? There's enough here for all of us, bro.
All the guys you were just talking about are very polarizing right now. Your sound is very modern, too, and I would imagine you might get a similar reaction to your music. So what do you think about the whole sort of intergenerational debate happening in rap right now?
I think it's different, and I think it's fun. I'll fight against it if everybody's going with it, but I think it's fun. A lot of kids need a release sometimes. Even if it's just for a quick two minutes and 30 seconds. They need that—just to, like, turn up. Where you can replay it over and over. It's not just fun, it's like: say what you want, do what you want, be what you want. Period. That's the generation I know. I love it. There's so much judgment. There's way too much judgment. Kids are literally scared to go to school and be themselves. It's to the point of it's what we need almost. Be yourself. That's Yachty's main thing. You see these guys walking around with all like three, five different colored hairs? They're doing what they want to do. Cool. I love it.
Photos by Jason Favreau
Kyle Kramer is an editor at Noisey. Follow him on Twitter.