According to his lawyer, Kodak Black is a changed man.
“He’s taking the time to really be introspective,” Fort Lauderdale criminal defense attorney Bradford Cohen said when we spoke on the phone two weeks before Kodak’s release. “I think that he’s grown a lot since he’s been in [jail], and I think that when he gets out, he’ll have a lot more tools to be successful in other areas, and not just as a recording artist.”
The 21-year-old Kodak, born Dieuson Octave and now legally known as Bill K. Kapri, has been behind bars in Broward County, Florida, for seven months—until today. He was serving time for charges stemming from a January 2018 raid of his home, which came after an Instagram Live video streamed from the house showed a man smoking weed near Kodak’s child while another rolled a joint and a third handled a gun “in a reckless manner,” the Sun Sentinel reported.
In all, Kodak was hit with grand theft of a firearm, two charges of possession of a weapon or ammunition by a felon, possession of marijuana over 20 grams, neglecting a child without great bodily harm, and two probation violation charges. Cohen was able to reduce those charges to the probation violations: driving with a suspended license and “associating with people committing crimes.”
In April, Kodak, who had been in jail since January, struck a plea deal that gave him a projected release date of September 17, 2018. His August release was made possible when a judge added 30 days to his time served.
Now that Kodak is walking free, with no probation in sight, what comes next? Given his history, it isn’t farfetched to assume he may pick up where he left off. After all, he was free for all of seven months before he was incarcerated again this year. Now that he’s out, there’s a chance he’ll go back in for sexual battery charges brought against him in South Carolina. But those close to Kodak are adamant that he’s ready to make a real change.
Cohen says the rapper’s actions show that he’s improving himself. The biggest sign, Cohen says, was Kodak’s pursuit and completion of a GED, which he received in late June.
“He only got two hours of freedom a day from his cell, and those two hours he spent studying,” Cohen said. “He studied for, I think, three or four months.” On top of studying for his GED, Kodak, Cohen says, took a 10-week parenting course and a life skills course.
While he refuses to call himself one, Alex Junnier is the closest thing Kodak has to a manager. (Per Junnier, Kodak “doesn’t like to say he has managers.”) In addition to living with him, Junnier handles Kodak’s business dealings and show bookings. He says Kodak was moved to better himself on his own.
“The best thing was none of that stuff was court-ordered,” Junnier said. “He just kind of did it because he wanted to. He reads a lot—a lot, a lot. He’ll just read a dictionary all day. He reads more than any college kid I know. He’s always trying to learn.”
“To me, it’s something that a lot of people don’t take the time to do when they’re not in jail,” Cohen added. “Just in regular life, you don’t find a lot of people reading anymore.”
Cohen tweeted in May that he had read a preliminary draft of a book he says Kodak was working on. “Just read the rough draft inedited [sic] version of @KodakBlack1k s new book!” he wrote. “You don't know someone unless you walk a mile in his/her shoes. A very inflective look at who he is and where he is going.”
Like Cohen and Junnier, Kodak’s producer/engineer Dyryk attested to Kodak’s growing interest in education. “I visited him, like, two weeks ago and he was talking about online classes,” Dyryk said. “Which is so left field, but he’s always been eager to learn. He’s very disciplined in everything that he actually has interest in.” Cohen says Kodak is most interested in courses on business and investments.
On top of studying for his GED and other courses, Kodak spent his two free hours a day talking to family and friends on the phone. Dyryk says he spoke to Kodak a couple of times a week. Their phone conversations always came back to music. In April, Dyryk posted on Instagram that he had recorded new verses from Kodak over the phone.
“There’s times he’s sharing with me what he’s written down, what he’s working on,” Dyryk explained. “For the times that he wanted to record over the phone, he was like, ‘Man, record this real quick.’ And I just record it. I know it’s fresh in his mind.”
Along with recording new material, Kodak has kept up with what’s popping in music as a whole. “Nicki released her album. We call and we talk about it; I play him a couple of songs,” Dyryk said. “It’s with a lot of people. When Future dropped his album, same thing. I played him the whole album over the phone while we were talking. It’s a good energy.”
Cohen says his conversations with Kodak weren’t focused on music, but on improvements in his personal life. “We have a lot of discussions about what he intends to do when he gets out and what he sees as his future,” Cohen said. “Just from what I know, what books he’s been reading”—titles on history and culture are among Kodak’s favorites—“and the type of things that he’s been doing, I think that he took advantage of a very bad situation. I think that he’s trying to turn it around and trying to learn not just what not to do and who not to hang out with, but also how to have internal growth.”
Junnier echoes Cohen’s words. “We’ve all talked about it,” he said. “I like the idea. It’s kind of like, the less people around him, the better. He just has to focus. Can’t have any distractions.”
Kodak’s immediate homecoming plans center on two things: family and music. “I think that he’s gonna take some time,” Cohen said. “I think that he’s got a lot of music. I don’t know what his plans are on what he’s gonna drop and when he’s gonna drop it.”
Dyryk says he knows that Kodak will likely need a period of adjustment. “It is a weird feeling because you have to, in a way, start over,” he said. “Not completely start over, but I know he wants to be able to decompress, see his mom, see his kid. As much as we all love music, it’s a little bit bigger than music.”
When I asked Junnier what he was most looking forward to in Kodak coming home, he didn’t hesitate: “Music,” he said. “I mean, that’s my best friend, so it’s not all about music. I want him to come home—but I’m a Kodak fan, too. The music we have that’s not even out, I’m already through that. I need new-new music.”
Dyryk is also ready to hit the ground running. “We feel like he is a new person,” he said. “We’re all proud of him. I know it’s just a matter of time before he’s like, ‘All right, let’s get back to the music.’ Because that’s really what he cares about.”
Junnier seconded that. “Last time, the first day he came out, he recorded, like, three, four songs,” he said. “He’ll probably want to do that again. He loves recording. When he’s home, we record every day, no matter what.”
Anyone who has been paying attention to Kodak’s music career knows it has been colored by jail stints and charges ranging from robbery to the sexual battery case still hanging over his head. Kodak was indicted on the latter charges in October 2017, following an alleged attack on a woman at a hotel in Florence, South Carolina, in February 2016. (The affidavit is here.)
Kodak is currently awaiting trial for that case. When contacted for a statement on Kodak’s outlook on those charges—which could see the rapper locked up for up to 30 years if convicted—his South Carolina-based lawyer, Beattie Ashmore, had a swift and simple answer, sent within two minutes from his iPhone: “No comment at this time. Thx.”