In the old days of rap — think pre-streaming-era or anything before 2010 — every new female rapper that came along had to be associated with a crew to gain any traction. They always had to be the “First Lady Of [X]”; Lil Kim was the official female representative of Bad Boy, Foxy Brown was The Firm’s sole woman, Rah Digga was connected to Flipmode Squad, Remy Ma was Terror Squad’s little sister. The list goes on; Eve, Lauryn Hill, Shawnna, and more were known more by the rapper who’d co-signed them than their own creative output in many cases. Even Nicki Minaj was presented as a member of the burgeoning Young Money crew when she made her debut in late 2000s.
19-year-old Kodie Shane — born Kodie Williams — entered the game in much the same way; discovered by then-teen Atlanta trap sensation Lil Yachty, Kodie was adopted as an official member of Yachty’s Sailing Team collective. However, unlike many of her forebears, whose success was directly and inextricably linked to that of their respective crew/label, Kodie has kept largely to herself, eschewing the attention that would come from the association in favor of a hermetically-sealed, self-sufficient approach that is beginning to pay huge dividends, thanks to the continuing support and guidance of mentors like Yachty and Coach K of Quality Control Records, the Atlanta-based label that’s home to talent like Yachty, Migos, and City Girls.
With that, she’s begun to the grow the small-but-loyal cadre of supporters she cultivated while on tour with the Sailing Team into a rapidly-snowballing fan base hooked on the melodic trap formula she began developing even before working with Yachty. Now, she’s proven to be even more adept at the style than Yachty himself; while Lil Boat’s Teenage Emotions debut received critical confusion, Kodie has only gained momentum from project to project, starting with the 2016 EP Zero Gravity, through to 2017’s Back From The Future and Big Trouble Little Jupiter and culminating on her as-yet-untitled, upcoming Epic Records debut led by the singles “Love & Drugz II” featuring Trippie Redd and “Sing To Her,” the video for which released in the first week of September.
It’s that momentum that attracted Red Bull Music, who chose her to support Bay Area R&B star Kehlani at the brand’s Red Bull Sound Select showcase in Chicago, but it was Kodie’s magnetic energy and exuberant onstage persona that prompted Red Bull to approach her about shooting a mini-documentary covering her return to her hometown of Chicago to play the biggest show yet in her career. She jumped at the chance and Remember The Name was born.
The documentary, which released this past Monday, September 10, details Kodie’s intriguing rise from precocious, slightly insecure teen rapper who wanted to sing inspired by older sister Brandi (Williams, of 2000s R&B trio Blaque) but was too scared to, to fully-fledged, bold, and progressive artist with the help of loyal producer Matty P and her mom, who also manages her. Now, Kodie not only pushes boundaries musically, but sets an example — along with a burgeoning group of artists that includes The Internet’s Syd, Troye Sivan, Hayley Kiyoko, and Kehlani herself — for queer representation in music and especially in hip-hop.
With her debut album just over the horizon and her stardom all but assured, now would indeed be the perfect time to make sure that music fans remember her name. I recently had the chance to speak to Kodie about the new Red Bull doc, anticipating her debut album, and how she swapped out her braces for diamonds.
Have you watched Remember The Name? What were your thoughts?
Yes, and it’s my favorite thing ever, they didn’t miss a mark on it. I’m so grateful that they captured the vision that we, they really captured the picture that we painted for them.
One of my favorite things from the documentary was seeing the old video of you rapping at fifteen and you had the braces and now you’re wearing the golds, so it’s like the glow-up is real.
I’m wearing the diamond now!
Was there any apprehension going from the smaller sort of sets that you did before to doing the Riviera Theater supporting Kehlani?
Honestly, I’m a performer, I’m an entertainer, I love to perform, so it could be one person out there, it could be five hundred million people out there, I’m going to always perform the same way. I’m going to always perform like the room is full of people. Once I get the mic and I get on the stage I’m not going to do it differently because it’s less people or because there’s more people, I’m going to rock out every night. I’m a rockstar.
So, it’s obvious what you want people to take away from the documentary from its title, but what’s something that you hope people learn about you more than anything else from the documentary?
I can’t say, ‘I’ll teach you all of this, blah, blah, blah,’ but I really just want people to see that I’m a real person, I’m vulnerable. I get in my way and I’m really just like the person watching it.
With this new attention, what are some of the different concerns that you have to think about now that you didn’t think about before?
It’s a lot of pressures: I pay bills, I’m about to be twenty years old, so it’s a lot of different things in my life that stress me out or pressure me but I try push the pressure and the stress as far away from me. I try to just do what makes me happy every day I wake up, do whatever I got to do to be better. I don’t really let stress or pressure take me over, and sometimes it’s hard, I can’t lie, sometimes I can break down, but overall I don’t let it get to me.
Tell me about the “Sing To Her” video. What’d you do to those poor girls, why were they so mad at you?
Them ain’t my girls, man, I don’t know why they was mad. [Laughs] The vibe for that was honestly Missy Elliott, old-school. [I wanted to] create an in-studio video, keep it creative, [with] different scenes. The cereal, the fur jacket, that was Missy-Elliott inspired. We kind of just wanted to do something different.
What do those Fruit Colored O’s cereal taste like?
They taste like ass. No cap.
I was really amused at the comment that Matty P made about how you were too shy about singing, that you wanted to rap because you felt like you couldn’t sing.
I just felt more comfortable rapping. When I was fifteen, sixteen, I felt like I wanted to be a rap artist. Right now in my life, I feel like I am just an artist, like one day I might end up painting, I might end up just doing poetry. I’m an artist, so I don’t ever want to say, ‘I rap,’ or ‘I sing.’ I do it all. I don’t want to be in no box.
Something your mom said in the film that was very interesting was how she was talking about your placement in the hip-hop canon when it comes to women in rap and how femininity in rap is in this kind of weird place where it can be a benefit but it can be a disadvantage. How do you interact with the complexity of femininity in rap?
I don’t like to put labels on anything, honestly. Music is about music. One day people are going to grow up and they’re going to get tired of the gimmicks of the yelling and screaming about running off on the plug and the gimmicks to get likes and people are going to be looking for real music and when that time comes, my music will be around for those people.
What can you tell me about this debut album you have coming up?
The album is going to be amazing. I really can’t wait for everyone to hear it, this music right here has taught me so much and I’ve grown so much from just creating this music. This is me turning 20, this is me entering a new chapter in my life, this is me falling in and out of love with love itself. This is me just perfecting my craft. I feel like this is the music that I really, really, really, put my heart into. I worked so hard on it. This is the music that I grew up with. I just really hope that everybody can feel it. I can’t necessarily tell you what people should take from it, but what I can say is that I want the people to tell me what they took from it.