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Sun-Ui Yum ran up a check.
In the wake of any great stylist, there will be imitators. Just as Chance the Rapper empowered a generation of early 2010s rappers to hit their wails over live instrumentation and FL Studio choirs, nearly every street rapper to emerge out of Florida for the next couple years will rotate somewhere in the orbit of Kodak Black: a stunning talent from Pompano Beach that maneuvered into mainstream adoration with ease before his incarceration.
Until Orlando’s GlokkNine manages to definitively distinguish himself, Kodak’s shadow will loom over the up and coming emcee. It’ll dominate his interviews, and it’ll be in the titles of their YouTube uploads for search-engine-optimization purposes. It is, admittedly, a reasonable link. He’s armed with a similar raspy delivery that lands in a synonymous register, he doubles up nearly all his vocals with a higher intonation just as Kodak did, and his hair sticks up at similar angles. For now, Kodak is the reference point, the inspiration and the ostensible subject of imitation.
In particular, Kodak’s early slow-burn “No Flocking” makes for an easy parallel to “10 Percent.” Both are their most popular videos at similar points of their careers, and both of their arresting single verses are free from interruption (and they would be interruptions) by hooks. They are both true exhibitions, three-minute-manifestos that demand attention. They both are phenomenal.
But something at the core of “10 Percent” is steelier. He snaps off the ends of his lines, and the knowing nonchalance that he holds as he saunters through the video of “10 Percent” is a type of cockiness and self-awareness that Kodak didn’t have then. When the first synths tumble in at the video’s outset, GlokkNine is only half-dressed, spitting toothpaste into his sink; then he’s ambling down spiral staircases onto marble floors under vaulted ceilings. He’s waving guns, wearing a smile for the whole runtime.
Kodak emerged a year too early to be roped in with the first generation of stars truly tied to SoundCloud—XXX, Ski, the earliest flashes of Lil Pump. In that particular respect, GlokkNine is an appropriate successor, one that’s embraced the platform’s compression. Moment-before-the-mosh-pit stretches like the first ten seconds of “Fish Hook” only exist among SoundCloud’s orange sound waves. Why waste a full intro and verse to accrue potential energy when you can wind up a beat in ten seconds? It’s a specific type of distorted and frenetic pocket of anticipation that crops up all over April’s Bloodshells Revenge and January’s Kold Face Kold Kase. The imagery, too, feels younger: brighter and neon, more Slaps for My Drop Top Van than Heart of the Projects. His Glock is “snaggletooth.” He looks great drawn and superimposed onto a Crayola box.
Identifying the line between imitation and inspiration—being able to suss out which artists leverage their influences and which are imprisoned by them—is partly about peering past the final product into that nebulous area of intention. There, GlokkNine’s ambition and range is telling. He runs riot over a diet Carnage Nina Simone flip on “Chain Gang,” then gets cinematographic complete with skits on “Glokk Story.”
For “Az-Za,” GlokkNine slows down and finds new grimness. His lines no longer tail off and hang in midair, as they (and, yes, Kodak’s) often do. The concept—each line is for a letter in the alphabet, all the way down then up save a couple tricky ones—is simple, but it grants him freedom. There are no guarantees in music, and Kodak’s impending return in the fall will fill a large void. The pressure for Glokk to find new progressions and snap him out of his habits is rising, but for now, he’s proven himself one of his state’s most intriguing talents.