Music

Kodak Black’s Prison Sentence Is Another Cautionary Tale For Young Artists

On Wednesday, controversial Florida rapper Kodak Black was sentenced to 46 months in federal prison for knowingly making false statements in order to unlawfully acquire firearms. The 22-year-old was arrested earlier this year for twice lying on federal gun applications by marking “no” on the question that asked if he was ineligible to buy a gun due to legal issues. Kodak was under indictment and out on bond for a felony criminal sexual misconduct case in South Carolina and was ineligible to purchase the weapons.

Shortly before sentencing, US District Court Judge Federico Moreno told Kodak that, “‘young people do stupid things. But the problem is that you’ve been doing stupid things since you were 15.” And while it’s troubling to hear any vessel of the criminal justice system scold a Black person when, by design, they present a disproportionate amount of the prison population, Moreno’s statement wasn’t unfounded. Just before he was arrested on the false statement charge, Kodak was arrested twice in a month on weapons charges while on tour.

Before and after fame, Kodak Black has had numerous close calls with the law that offered him chances to change his life. But now, he may have ruined his life. Kodak was facing 10 years for the false application charges and got a relatively lenient sentence — considering that one of the guns he purchased was found at the scene of a Pompano, Florida shooting last March. The 46 months will hinder his career, but if he’s convicted of rape in South Carolina, and is sentenced to the maximum of 30 years, his career as a recording artist will rightfully be over. The rape case (and numerous colorist, misogynistic) comments have made Kodak one of the major targets of “cancel culture,” but his plight exemplifies that some people will eventually “cancel” themselves with a commitment to bad decisions.

Even in an era where young rappers constantly run into legal issues, Kodak has been especially troubled. In October 2015, the same month he signed to Atlantic Records, he was arrested for robbery, battery, false imprisonment of a child, and marijuana possession. Seven months later, he was charged with possession of a weapon by a convicted felon, possession of marijuana, and fleeing from officers. The next month, in May 2016, he was arrested again and charged with armed robbery and false imprisonment.

Even with that slew of violent charges, he received a plea agreement in the armed robbery case which gave him a year of house arrest and five years probation. The sentence would permit him to continue this burgeoning career and even tour internationally. It appeared that he was getting off with a relative reprieve, but more of his bad decisions caught up with him. Officials at the Broward Main Jail, where he was incarcerated, discovered two outstanding warrants: one for two counts of misdemeanor marijuana possession in Florida and another for felony criminal sexual conduct in Florence, South Carolina. After serving four months on the weed charges, he was transferred to Florence to face the rape charge.

A 17-year old high schooler from South Carolina alleges that after a February 2016 concert, Kodak Black sexually assaulted her while saying “he couldn’t help himself.” He was currently out on bond while awaiting trial, which he had delayed — perhaps because more problems keep piling up.

In May 17th, he was sentenced to 364 days in jail for violating his house arrest. Before being sentenced in that case, he told Judge Michael Lynch that, “depending on the outcome of this, it could be the beginning of my career, or the end of my career.”

While he appeared to take accountability for his mistakes and the treacherous consequences, he continued to make decisions that threatened his career and freedom. In January 2018, while on house arrest, he was caught on Instagram Live with guns and what turned out to be synthetic marijuana. He was initially charged with seven felony charges including child neglect, grand theft of a firearm, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and marijuana possession. But he eventually had some of the charges dropped and was sentenced to 364 days in jail with time served.

Throughout this torrent of legal woes, his career has continued to ascend. Kodak has cultivated a cult fanbase who enjoy his slurry mic presence and candid confessionals of trying to tread water in the trenches of Southern Florida. On 2018’s “Expetitously,” he rhymed “talking to my lil’ boy, I promise won’t let them boys kill me / lookin’ at my lil’ boy like, “Father, don’t let them boys steer me.” It’s that survivalist perspective that had Drake sending him a flurry of complementary texts about his “amazing” Dying To Live album.

Despite having an open rape case and making indefensible statements about dark-skinned women (deemed “Black bitches”), Young MA, a grieving Lauren London, and wanting to punch a pregnant Yung Miami in the stomach, his music was still beloved enough to make him an in-demand act. Perhaps that’s a statement on society as much as his music, but Kodak is appreciated by millions.

Though he has numerous detractors for good reason, there are others who view him as a troubled soul that isn’t beyond redemption. J. Cole rapped the following about him on “Middle Child:”

Had a long talk with the young n**** Kodak
Reminded me of young n*****s from ‘Ville
Straight out the projects, no fakin’, just honest
I wish that he had more guidance, for real
Too many n*****s in cycle of jail
Spending they birthdays inside of a cell

Despite encouragement from people like Cole, Boosie, Master P — and even the late XXXTentacion — Kodak continued to make bad decisions. In a September Instagram post, shortly after he pled guilty to the gun charges, he reflected “Ya Sometime I Come Off A Lil Arrogant But You`ll Be Too If You Was Young & Rich Comin Up Out Da Projects,” expressing no genuine contrition for any of his actions or comments. In January 2017, after going on Instagram Live and broadcasting a woman giving his crew oral sex in a Washington DC hotel room, Kodak tweeted, “If I could change I swear I would .. I tried everything but I’m just so hood.”

While most people who tweet such affirmations are being tongue-in-cheek, we have no choice but to believe that Kodak doesn’t believe he’s capable of change at this point. Change starts from the inside, and it comes in a person’s own time. Unfortunately for Kodak’s child and family, time is all he has right now — and all he may have for the next 30 years.

Kodak Black is a Warner Music artist. Uproxx is an independent subsidiary of Warner Music Group.

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