In his self-proclaimed 2015 summertime jam “Ran Up a Check,” Kodak Black playfully commands his listener to call him “butthead,” “cause his mind’s on your ass.” Observed in a vacuum, the lyric is juvenile and silly, yet paired with the track’s ebullient, DJ Mustard-evoking production, the lyric feels authentic—a snapshot of Kodak’s sillier side. On Institution, Kodak is no less puerile, as he best displays in “Shit on Me:” “In science class high as hell / I’m floatin’ off that loud I feel like Tinkerbell.”
Institution’s significance is its versatile display of Kodak’s lyrical charm. Throughout its 24 tracks, the rapper demonstrates his ability to be funny, assertive, and vulnerable. Across the mixtape’s near 75 minute duration, the listener learns that Kodak was kicked out of elementary school as a child, dealt drugs in the projects of Florida’s Pompano Beach, suffered both fraternal and romantic betrayals, and served time behind bars. The latter theme is the focal point of the album, and is best showcased in the mixtape’s title track—the album’s highlight. Its production has the same beat of Tink’s 2014 single “Treat Me Like Somebody,” which initially comes across as hokey; however, Kodak’s sincere display of sensitivity redeems him for the near plagiaristic act, as his words of endearment demonstrate to the listener that Kodak is not merely a fucboi with booty on his mind.
Institution is bulky and many of its tracks, notably in its second half, are redundant; however, it serves the function of a mixtape, giving exposure to a rapper and hyping anticipation of an impending album, the latter of which occurs in “Sticky 1” and “Real Nigga Files.” In “Sticky 1,” Kodak reveals that he is about to sign to Atlantic. In “Real Nigga Files,” he reveals that Project Baby 2 is coming out soon, which presumably will be released on the aforementioned label. Most importantly though, the album illustrates that Kodak is a versatile performer—who also shows a lot of prowess in one specific area. He can confidently and genuinely display vulnerability, which listeners only hope to see more of in the ostensible Project Baby 2.
Migos with a less staccato delivery
“I won’t change on you even if I get a record deal / Ima rip my heart out my chest put it in this envelope”
“Without my momma and my brothers you all I got / Can you send me some pictures ‘cause that would mean a lot.”