Kingface Mixtape: Entangle

phoenix freeways are more cluttered every time i come home. i’m driving alone as the sun has just set, staring at the highway but my thoughts aren’t on the road. the exit signs all take me somewhere new: the house of an ex-lover; a bad party from high school; the office of an assuming white therapist. each memory i pass becomes a strand of string that loops around my chest. they tighten as i get further and further from home, and suddenly i am entangled.

though i’m heading downtown to a friend’s apartment, i truly just want to be alone. insistent memories drove me from my grandmother’s house. now puncturing the music in my head are the heavy drum-kicks of a Kodie Shane song, “Twins”, blasting from my speaker.

her music is perfect for the moment i’m in. through space-like atmospheres of hard-hitting trap beats, with splashes of new jack swing and R&B influences, Shane spins compelling stories with clever lyrical style. to be honest, Kodie Shane is perfect for any moment. she’s one of the best artists working in music right now and she turned 20 this year. born Kodie Williams, she’s daringly original, true to her Atlanta roots, and, as she puts it, “queer as fuck [...] and happy about it.” (see footnote)

i turn my mind away from the exit signs toward Shane’s electrified vocals spilling on 808s out the windows of my Honda Civic. on “Twins,” she leans heavily into some of her best storytelling strategies. her bright voice opens a familiar scene: she is cruising in a convertible, looking for women, claiming she can be a playa with the best in hip-hop (Meek Mill, Jeezy, Jay-Z). soft keys fall into the lush kicks like a slow avalanche. then she quickly begins to muddle the narrative, becoming more introspective, playing with double-meanings and downright contradictions.

even in this song, one of her loneliest, Shane raps about relationships. as i am more tightly wound in the web of memory, i lose my desire to be with friends. i mentally remove myself from webs of relationships that feel, increasingly, as if they entangle and suffocate. Kodie Shane’s music, on the other hand, smoothly switches loneliness on and off. the beautiful twins she picked up in her convertible quickly become twin cups of lean in her hand, and suddenly she’s alone, riding high through Atlanta.

this solitary moment in the song turns into a brilliant expression of regret and reflection:

you know i'm fucked up, what have i done? / i'm rollin' for some, i'm rollin' for some / you bussin' with some, she poppin' for some / ain't fuck with no money, what have we done to us?

switching between all three persons, Shane blurs audience, artist, and lover. her guilt begets reflections on community methods of survival and coping, and as her voice crescendos, the singular expression of guilt becomes a collective one: what have we done to us?

it seems no coincidence that Kodie spits these ruminations from the driver seat. trap music is car music, meant for riding and trunk-rattling, and vehicles have always signalled questions of pain and collectivity in hip-hop. in the face of rampant police stops and other attempts at restraining Black mobility, the car is a place to loudly blast music and not give a fuck. this is what Jordan Davis, age 17, was doing in Jacksonville when a white man at a gas station asked him to turn his music down and then opened fire on him, taking his life in november of 2012. the image of Davis bumping the late Fredo Santana in Jacksonville, the place my grandmother still calls the most racist place she’s ever been, grabs me like a recollection of my own.

i hang my right index finger over the steering wheel in front of the windshield and trace the freeway forward toward the v-line of its horizon. suicidal thoughts make driving significant in a different way, creating dangers in the mind, reinforcing how solitary the car must be. most of my friends who struggle with suicidal ideation affirm how easy it is to imagine yourself swerving into traffic, the strands that construct you unraveling in an instant.

as i drive in the warm winter sun, Shane places more imaginative pictures in my head.

perhaps it is the way she utilizes contradiction. one of her MOs is spitting two lines back to back that directly negate each other. on “High Speeds”, one of many standouts from her 2018 debut album Young HeartThrob , Kodie admits, wanna broadcast, wanna tell 'em what I'm sayin' though / don't tell 'em what I'm sayin' though .

similar contradictions across her catalogue point to the accepted absurdity of her poetics. instead of landing at a destination, she keeps cruising, suspended between loneliness and a need for connection. it’s entanglement that she describes, and it feels like mania: i think i lost my mind in my coupe and i just can't find it (“Don’t Fight it”).

sitting with absurdity feels this way, but it enables important nuances for moving through life, especially as a Black queer person navigating personal relationships.

for instance, she is perfectly comfortable asserting herself as a playa (with nickname The Don) while simultaneously refusing the logics that connect her sexual freedom to specific expressions of sex and gender: “my thing is that i want to be able to do what i want. i don’t want to have to fall in love with what’s inside of somebody’s pants.” (see footnote)

navigating gender’s entanglements instills an undying absuridty in me. our world has created the webs of irrationalities that make me identify both as nonbinary and as a man; that leave me at times unable to see myself as my mother’s son, and other times unable to think about it any other way.

solace from this absurdity sometimes feels impossible in Phoenix, the city my family moved to in 2004. as Kodie Shane said once about my current home, “that’s a weird ass space bro.” Phoenix is the fastest growing and least sustainable city in America, a city still violently being built on Sobaipuri and Hohokam land, the city whose police commit a fifth of the murders. for me, it’s a place clouded with memory, a place to which my family fled. and while the strings that entangle me may feel like the past, they hold me from the future. my memories, my gender, and my fears all live in my imagination, the only thing that allows the future to become.

but these nets of gender, capitalism, and addiction do not afflict our individual imaginations. rather, our futures are entangled. perhaps this is why my own experience of gender always drives me to resist relationship with others. where webs of absurdity come into focus, connection lingers in the background.

“Twins” presents our connections as indistinguishable from even the most laughable absurdities: y eah, i know that we're losing it / i'm not tryna laugh baby. in her laughter, Shane lingers on the connection. she allows the absurdity of it all to fall away, to unravel, and she just sees her partner: but you so damn cute with that shit. even at her most patronizing, Kodie is always looking away from past absurdity and toward future connection.

indeed, the future is always at stake. many rappers have achieved an aesthetic that resurrects ghosts of the past but Kodie Shane claims to be returning to the present from a future we don’t know: i just left off on a shuttle from the future (“Get Right”). in her future, gender is just a story. in her future, contradictions hold truths. in her future, folks’ bodies are not symbols. she is on a mission in her coupe and she plans to take us with her.

i stop looking for the end of the freeway. i get off at an exit i’ve never taken before. i make a left and drive, opening my windows to the air around me, turning up the music, unraveling continuously.

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footnotes:

1. “Who is Kodie Shane?” , Red Bull Music Documentary, 2018

2. “Why Kodie Shane Should Be Your New Favorite Rapper” , FADER , Zoe Camp

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