Label: Atlantic Records
Released: March 31

Kodak Black knows how to craft a song. The emerging young Florida rapper, plagued by prison time and sexual assault accusations for the entire duration of his career, has carved an unlikely path to stardom for himself. Largely, that's on the back of his ability to turn out a hook seemingly at will, separating himself from the pack and feeding into a seemingly unstoppable momentum. Painting Pictures, released by Atlantic Records, is the clearest window into that appeal, an assured full-length that puts his deft songwriting skills on display alongside hip-hop mainstays like Future.

Covering rap in 2017—especially its new artists—often felt like a lose-lose situation. The culture—or an entirely new one—is moving past its gatekeepers. Rappers like Kodak Black (or XXXtentacion, or 6ix9ine, or Famous Dex; the list goes on, and will continue to) present a conflict of interest in separating art and artist that I still haven't been able to untangle. Kodak Black is, despite his myriad faults, an undeniably talented rapper, and one who's getting attention regardless of whether I write about him or not. Major labels currently refuse to follow the mass purging hitting other industries, most noticeably Hollywood, and ethical consumption in hip-hop feels like an impossible dream. I don't know what to do about that. —Brendan Klinkenberg