We sat down with the Little Rocket to talk first tattoos and the power of friendship.
Photography Eric Chakeen
When we first spoke with rising Atlanta rapper Lil Yachty back in February, he was hours away from performing at Webster Hall in New York and wondering if people would turn up for the show. "Sometimes it gets extremely packed, which excites me, but my first thought is always that I hope people come," he said with an endearing blend of confidence and bashfulness (the show ended up selling out). Six months later, Yachty has exploded: his infectious, idiosyncratic flow is no longer an exciting novelty, but has been tapped by everyone from PARTYNEXTDOOR to D.R.A.M., for his mega-viral summer slapper "Broccoli." Yachty's been named one of XXL's Freshmen Class of 2016, and will soon be hitting the road with Rae Sremmurd.
But on his way up, the 18-year-old Atlanta rapper has remained faithful to his best friends, an eclectic crew of collaborators he's dubbed the Sailing Team in keeping with his love for all things maritime. They're the buzzy band of rhymers and producers that lend color to his most recent release, Summer Songs 2, and who joined him in full force at his Fool's Gold Day Off festival set in Queens on Saturday, one of the stops on the team's month-long Boat Show tour. There, the crew treated a fully packed house to its most recent release, a Ruff Ryders meets Rugrats squad anthem called "All In." The song's carnival-esque beat is bubbly, but proves adaptable to each collaborator's distinctive lyrical style — all of them anchored by Lil Boat's signature sleepy, half-sung lilt.
The song's standout star? Kodie Shane, the Sailing Team's lone female member whose grandpa named her after a cowboy. The Chicago-bred newcomer is fast developing her own committed fan base — captivated equally by her multi-faceted, elastic sound and her entirely disarming smile. Both are fully on display in the music video for "All In," released earlier this month — on the day before Kodie made her NYC debut at one of Venus X's GHE20G0TH1K events. Kodie's easygoing, tomboyish style and fearless approach to creative projects made her an excellent match for the night's hosts: all-female Bronx skate collective Las Brujas.
The "All In" video, directed by i-D contributor Petra Collins, sees Yachty's team travel not by boat, but by school bus. In person, Kodie is just as upbeat and, frankly, adorable as she appears on screen with all of her pals. "Shout out to Petra! She's amazing; I love her," Kodie enthuses when we meet backstage following the Sailing Team's Fool's Gold set. "The Brady Bunch scene was so excellent. We all shot at different times during the day so I wasn't sure exactly how the video was going to come together, but it turned out amazing — exactly how we envisioned it."
In Collins's buoyant visual, each of "All In's" nine collaborators step out from the bus to deliver their guest spot. Kodie arrives eighth, closing out the bouncy banger with a verse that flexes the strength of her songwriting and her syrupy singing voice. Though her unique contribution has proven a fan favorite, when we meet backstage after Yachty's set, Kodie says she wasn't always feeling her verse. "Feedback from 'All In' has been amazing; they're going so crazy for my verse and I'm so happy!" she beams. "Honestly though, I hated my verse at first. I had to listen to it a few times and let it grow on me, but I'm really excited people have been feeling it."
The love from "All In" follows the buzz surrounding Kodie's debut EP, Little Rocket. Released digitally in early June, the five-track effort has already netted hundreds of thousands of plays on SoundCloud. Little Rocket's spacy, euphoric sound was cooked up by producers D.Clax and Matty P, who Kodie says she's been working with from the jump. "I grew up around music, it's almost all I know. I made the decision to pursue it when I was 13, and it's all I've wanted to do," says Kodie. "Matty P has produced everything I've pretty much ever done; he gave me a Mac laptop with a whole bunch of beats on it. I just was going through the beats, picked what I liked, and wrote to it."
While "All In" is an ode to longtime friends, Little Rocket explores other facets of connectivity. The record touches on forging relationships (how many hearts has she already broken with crooning cut "I Want To"?) and breaking from them. On standout single "Losing Service" Kodie expresses a desire to ditch digital distractions. Her own flow has earned her comparisons to Lil Uzi Vert and Dej Loaf, but she's far more concerned with making her own lane. "I just really want people to come away from my music having felt something," says Kodie.
She's already looking forward to the release of her next project, a tape called Back to the Future. "My birthday is October 28, so I'm thinking to release it shortly after. I'm sworn to secrecy on features, but there will definitely be some surprises!" Before that, though, comes a Sailing Team compilation. Following her spotlight-stealing turn on "All In," the team effort will likely be another tick in Kodie's W column; but she says the crew's main objective is all about enjoying experiences together. "We go in the studio and really try to have fun with what we're making, have fun with each other, and have fun with the youth. We want to show kids not to be scared to try new things or be themselves."
When we meet, Kodie isn't sporting the solid gold grill that usually adorns her bottom row of teeth and turns up the wattage on that winning smile. She says she's in the process of having her entire mouth blinged out but got her first tattoo in the meantime. It's a small thunderbolt adjacent to her thumb, a design fellow Sailing Team member TheGoodPerry got inked, too. "Yachty, Perry, they're my big brothers," she explained. "I'm so excited for the future and what we'll build together."
Text Emily Manning
Photography Eric Chakeen