Photo by Sarah Kinbar
Pompano Beach artist Kodak Black stepped out for his first Orlando performances since being freed from prison
One of the more intimate, beautiful moments of the holiday happened on Sunday in Orlando when Kodak Black got on stage at 4:45 a.m. in a strip mall venue called Genasis Event Center on Edgewater Drive and started rapping.
Kodak’s gift to the tiny audience was warm, radiating energy coupled with hard emotion — both of which fueled his short, four-song set comprised of new work written this year.
“It felt like no one could kill the vibe. No one could hold us back on how we wanted to take in the moment,” said Arianna Rivera, who learned about the concert last-minute and arrived just in time.
Saturday’s show at Rum Jungle, followed by the afterparty at Genasis, were Black’s first in Orlando since being released from a high-security federal penitentiary in Illinois. His brother is a student at the University of Central Florida and Black has made Orlando a priority.
on Instagram), an established Orlando-based event promoter, brought the artist to Rum Jungle on International Drive for Christmas weekend. “Kodak loves Orlando," says Melo. "This is his first time back in Orlando since he’s been home and we all were glad to make that happen, especially on Christmas.”
And why Genasis for the afterparty rather than another International Drive venue? “We wanted to give everyone a more centralized location since the vast majority came from West Orlando. Those who did not get to see him at Rum Jungle more than likely went to see him at … Genasis,” explained Melo.
While the venue accommodated a cozy audience of what seemed to be a few hundred people, many hundreds more fans gathered and celebrated in the North Gate Plaza lot which at other times is sparsely populated with customers parking to shop at Skycraft Parts & Surplus in their new location or Woo Sung Oriental Food Market where freshly-made Spam Musubi is sold on the weekends.
Nearby, the Shell gas station and Advanced Auto Parts parking lots took in the overflow, and fans celebrated there: speakers blasting, people dancing and singing. If there was ever a way to eclipse Christmas, this was it.
At 4 a.m., police blocked the northwest-bound lanes of Edgewater Drive at Lee Road, making it difficult for concertgoers to access the show.
Local artist HKN Froze got inside the venue at 4:30 a.m., easily finding a spot near the stage. “It’s not often that artists with that kind of status travel to areas that are less fortunate to show love. Usually, they perform at major stadiums, clubs that are heavily populated," he said. "He came to the city and showed love at a fairly reasonable price considering how close we were and how much access the audience had. It was unreal."
The show began with "Senseless," released July 29, a bold and brash single that travels back in time to Black’s early teen years, uncovering the intense pressures that defined his youth as a child entrepreneur. To see him today is to feel the rush that carries him forward and upward a moment at a time.
Second on the setlist was "Killing the Rats," described by some bloggers as a demonstration of love to fans that supported him through difficult times. In 2020, he pled guilty to charges related to gun possession and was sentenced to 3 years and 10 months in prison. On Jan. 19, outgoing President Trump commuted Kodak’s sentence and the rapper was released a day later, according to reports.
"Killing the Rats" was released Oct. 24, shortly after the public went wild over a series of vulnerable tweets in which Kodak wrote about heartbreak and depression. In the limelight as he is, not a single movement of his goes unnoticed.
Black soon deactivated his Twitter and Instagram accounts. He later brought his Instagram back online and made statements there to explain the tweets. The frenetic play-by-play culminated with Kodak putting "Killing the Rats" out into the world. It’s just like him to punctuate a dialogue or drama with a song.
His third song of the night, "Closure," dropped on Dec. 2 and is another detailed portrait of his childhood, a crystal-clear picture of a boy in crisis looking inward for strength and bravery and outward for support. The roots of his loyalty to himself and his friends were planted in those early years, illuminating his determination to speak on personal tragedies including incarceration, betrayal and the deaths of people he loves.
Now, picture this. Imagine you love someone. You would die for this person. You’ve known them for years and have thousands of memories with them. You’ve walked through the fire together. This person betrays you and your heart is broken to smithereens. And you’re angry. You want to shout out your feelings to the world and feel the triumph of being perfectly understood by the masses. You hear them as they echo your grief. You look out and see their faces mirroring your own. You lock eyes with them one by one and ride a wave of ceremonious, unanimous agreement that indeed, this person who betrayed you is a lil’ bi*ch.
All of this to say that Black wrapped up his set with a deeply moving performance of "Super Gremlin," released the day before Halloween. The record peaked at No. 2 on Billboard’s Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart, 45 on Billboard’s Global 200 and 20 on the Billboard Hot 100. The lyrics appear to mourn the loss of a key friendship the songwriter expected would last for life, and the record is rumored to refer to a rift that occurred back in June. If this is true, it is interesting to note that all four songs on the setlist were released after June, as if to embrace a fresh start moving forward after a loss.
Speaking of fresh starts, Black closed out the night by sharing his gratitude for his freedom from prison and asking the audience to continually remember the incarcerated.
“I have my freedom. I have my freedom,” Kodak repeated, before challenging everyone with his goodbye: “Aight. Love! Y’hear?”
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