Atlantic Records
Atlantic Records

There have been quite a few controversial and polarizing figures in rap that have come along and captured the culture's attention with both their music and their antics. Kodak Black appears to be the latest figure in rap to garner as much chatter for things beyond his music as he does for his exploits on records. In the midst of the storm surrounding his private life, Kodak has unleashed his long-awaited debut, Painting Pictures, which serves as a culmination of the 19 years of living he's experienced up til this point.

"Ayy, look, I say, 'I don't rap, I illustrate. I don't paint pictures, I picture-paint,'" Kodak Black clarifies on "Day to Day," the introductory salvo on Painting Pictures, which captures the essence of the teenage phenom's heart and soul. With his hardscrabble beginnings well-documented, Kodak Black conveys the despair that engulfs the environment he was born into, rapping, "I was already sentenced, before I came up out the womb/Streets done already sentenced me, before no cracker could/And I wonder why, when I'm just so fucked up out the hood" over the solemn Schife and Ben Billions-produced beat.

Beginning the album on a sobering note, Kodak follows that intro with "Coolin and Booted," a boastful record on which the Floridian brags, "Your old lady want to screw me, I'm so smooth, don't need no lubricant," while navigating 808 drums, cymbals and xylophones.

Painting Pictures gets off to a solid start, but serves up one of its first highlights with the Bun B-assisted "Candy Paint," a syrupy composition that finds Kodak swerving throughout the streets of Houston. "Candy, candy, candy/Spent 20 grand on my auntie/Put Louis V on my women/I'm sippin' on lean, I'm dizzy," Kodak drawls over the hypnotic production provided by Go Grizzly. Bun B takes posers to task with a cautionary verse, warning, "Everybody wanna claim blue/Everybody wanna claim red/Everybody wanna bang out/'Til they got a .45 to they muthafuckin' head."

"U Ain't Never," a hazy Ben Billions-produced number, continues the momentum, but the tempo of Painting Pictures changes course with a pair of lighthearted offerings in "Twenty 8" and "Patty Cake," two of the sunnier selections on the album that capture Kodak's youthful exuberance. The latter, produced by Ness and Ben Billions, is powered by piano keys, 808 drums, snaps and other wrinkles, making for one of the livelier soundbeds on Kodak's debut. "I'm sippin' on Belaire, my chick from Bel-Air/My whip from Germany, I'm cooler that LL/I clap a nigga like patty cake," he rhymes. Kodak Black crafts a winner with "Patty Cake" while showing he's adept at more than just cultivating simple gutter musings and cliche club fare.

However, Painting Pictures includes an ample amount of high-octane moments that caters to the turn up, such as "Up in Here," the album's lead single, "Tunnel Vision" and the final cut, "There He Go," all of which are effective and play to Kodak's strengths as a hit-maker. Although known for his aggressive mannerisms and menacing countenance, Kodak Black also gives glimpses of his tender tendencies on "Save You" and "Side Nigga," both of which feature the youngster attempting to find love in unusual places. Produced by NAV and Ben Billions, "Save You," on which Kodak drops affectionate lines like, "Wanna show you I appreciate you/Tonight I wanna prove to you/I flew to you without my cape/Went out my way to save you" and employs a sing-songy flow, is an unexpected curve ball that borders on cheesy, but is rescued by the teenager's sincere showcase of emotion.

Running 18 tracks long, Kodak's debut is relatively light on guest appearances, but many of the album's best songs are collaborative efforts, with "Conscience" among them. The Future-assisted effort "Conscience" finds the two southerners trading stanzas, with Kodak musing, "I check your temperature, nigga, is you hot or cold?/Like a state trooper, I make my money on the road/I remember hittin' houses, nigga, cash for gold/These streets made me lose my conscience, took a nigga soul." Producers DY of 808 Mafia and CiceroOnDaBeat contribute one of the more enticing soundscapes on the long player with this track.

Additional contributions from A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie ("Reminiscing") and Young Thug ("Top Off Benz") are also solid offerings, but Painting Pictures' most potent pairing is Kodak linking up with Jeezy for "Feeling Like," a ghastly number that captures "Lil Big Pac" at his most transparent.

Produced By Da Honorable C.N.O.T.E., "Fling Like" finds Kodak Black questioning the love and attention he's garnered since reaching stardom. "I just pray to God, them crackers don't come indite me/I know if I go to jail, you prolly never write me/I be thinkin' like, None these bitches really like me/I be feelin' like you only want me 'cause I'm icy," he delivers, as if they're questions he already knows the answers to. Among the finer lyrical performances from Kodak Black on Painting Pictures, "Feeling Like" is executed with precision.

Painting Pictures, which serves as one of the more anticipated debut albums of 2017, isn't devoid of the occasional hiccup or cringe-worthy lyrics, but it's a solid body of work from an artist who has yet to scratch the surface of his potential. Kodak Black's knack for creating and enhancing a hit record may be his main claim to fame, but he's at his best when giving blunt testimonials on his experiences in the streets and sharing the perspective and pain that comes along with them.

Controversy stemming from his constant legal troubles may be hampering his progress as an artist and may have put a bit of a damper on the release of his debut LP, but Painting Pictures is an admirable effort and indicative of the path that Kodak Black is on, which is on the way to becoming one of the premier mouthpieces for the streets for the foreseeable future.

See Behind-the-Scenes With Kodak Black at 2016 XXL Freshman Class Cover Shoot

More From XXL