Originally written on December 10th, 2015
Kodak Black is an anomaly in rap right now. The 18-year-old Florida rapper of Haitian descent was born in the trenches – Golden Acres Projects of Pompano Beach, to be exact – and has developed a cult following around Broward County thanks to his organic, homegrown sound. He’s yet to make a forced record, though his sound can range from lethargic to menacing, and while most people compare him to his favorite rapper Lil Boosie, the first time I heard his 2013 debut Project Baby he reminded me more of a young Lil Wayne. His music sounds like something that Cash Money could have put out in the late ’90s.
Kodak (born Dieuson Octave) isn’t caught up in the standard industry buzz cycle – interviews, blog-hosted showcases, outrageous social media activity – although he has already gotten caught up in our country’s prison industrial complex. He’s what kids in Florida high schools are listening to, but lately he’s started gaining more national attention thanks to cosigns from Drake, Meek Mill, Kevin Gates, and Earl Sweatshirt. Songs like “Shoulda Woulda” and “No Flockin” have even gotten burn on Drake’s OVO Sound Radio as of recent.
With his new Institution mixtape set to drop on Christmas, we wanted to give you a peek at some of the Finesse Kid’s best work to date. Here are the eight best Kodak Black songs so far, plus a couple bonus treats thrown in at the bottom.
“SKRT” (Prod. by SkipOnDaBeat) 
“No Flockin” might be his go-to single right now, but “SKRT” is quickly becoming Kodak’s most popular song. He sounds lost when he asks his girl “What is up with you?” over this floating glaze of a beat before deciding it’s time to leave her. In a way, the aesthetic of the song parallels Kodak’s life: the projects could have sucked in a kid who dropped out of high school, but he’s making strides to ensure that doesn’t happen.
“Switchin Gears” (Prod. by K.E. On The Track) 
I could have included “Signs” or “Won’t Go Back” or “Never Imagine” from his first tape Project Baby, but I’m going with “Switchin Gears” simply because it includes his catchphrase – “It’s lil’ Kodak, and you know dat.” It also has the same quality that some of his best songs radiate – it sounds like pure wealth, dreamed or actual.
“I Remember” (2014)
This song is so perfect. He was “out here scheming, talking to them demons” as if he could have a civil conversation with the forces that push so many young black men to extremes in this country. The horns on the chorus section really make it, but this could be the overall best song in Kodak’s catalog.
“Ran Up A Check” (2015)
Before he starts rapping, Kodak lets you know this is for the kids to bump before they go back to school. Yes, it’s definitely best experienced in a drop-top whip with the wind blowing in your face on an 80 degree day, but five months later we’re still bumping this religiously.
“Don’t Understand” (2014)
This sounds like older, unreleased Kodak material, and he’s miserable as hell on it. Since Kodak doesn’t promote his own music that much, you should follow him on Youtube and Audiomack (Soundcloud too, although that’s updated with his new music a lot less often) so you can always know when he drops some new shit. His music can be very dark at times, but songs like these are the type of music that get people through rough times.
Bonus: “Project Baby” (Prod. by Rooq) 
For whatever reason, this was one of two songs originally released on Project Baby (along with “4th Quarter,” which was over the same beat as Rich The Kid’s “Goin Crazy”) that was later left off the retail version of the mixtape. It might be the strongest example of Wayne’s influence on Kodak.
Bonus: “I Just Might” (2015)
Remember how I said his music could have been released by Cash Money in the late ’90s? This is what I’m talking about.
Bonus: “Skrilla” (2014)
His second and most recent mixtape Heart of the Projects from 2014 also had four songs that didn’t make it to the retail version – “No Flockin,” “M.O.H.,” “Pelican“ (another must-listen), and the above “Skrilla.” I’m only including this so you can get a sense of how his hometown reacts at a show when he performs it.