The 19-Year-Old Singer/Rapper Has the Tunnel Vision to Soar in a World of Her Own
- Interview: Lakin Starling
- Photography: Kevin Amato
Kodie Shane is easygoing, but she’s serious about her art. Music is all she’s ever known. In kindergarten, the Atlanta, Georgia native—whose real name is Kodie Williams—got her first performance slot in what she calls a “rip-off” talent show. “I prepared for it like my life was on the line and I did really great,” she says. Despite Shane’s fearless talent, she lost the competition because she was too young to qualify. But the disappointment didn’t deter her, and her quest for stardom was propelled by her vast musical pedigree.
Shane’s father Danny Williams Jr. was a member of the 80s R&B/songwriter trio Rick, Ran, and Dan. Her older sister Brandi Williams was a member of the futuristic girl group Blaque, which she says started in her living room with the help of her mom and manager, Hope Williams. Shane recognizes the unique role her family plays in her career. “I'm thankful because me and my mom are in a really good space and a lot of people don't have that. They don't know when their mom is being a mom and when their mom is being a manager,” she says. Before she started laying proper tracks, Shane says she’d come up with songs and hooks in her head until one day her mother overheard her singing one out loud and inquired about the tune. At 15, Shane got the chance to bring her ideas to fruition when her mom started her own recording studio. But at first, all the hours she spent in the booth were the result of Shane getting into trouble at school. “I’d gotten suspended for 10 days, so my mom would make me go [to the studio] everyday for punishment,” Shane remembers. But in actuality, she didn’t need to be forced.
The same year, Shane wrote and recorded her first song, “Crown Me.” At the time, her rap name was The Don—an early dismissal to gender roles and an acknowledgment of her idiosyncratic teenage confidence. In a fiery rap flow not yet coated with the inflective melodies she’d later cultivate, Shane boasts: “You talking to me?/Bite your tongue when you’re talking to me/ Stand down when you walk up to me/ I’m the best punk crown me the queen.” Now, Shane looks back and laughs about the song. “It’s on Soundcloud but don’t tell nobody,” she says. “It was corny.”
But Shane was onto something. In 2015, she released a video for her self-written track, “In Ya City” and Atlanta rap guru Coach K—whose also guided the careers of Migos and Rich The Kid—noticed his associate and rap producer Matty P in the scene. He reached out to Matty and Shane’s team and the two visionaries began stopping by the studio everyday to watch the budding artist record. When Shane was 16, Coach introduced her to rapper Lil Yachty. “We got in the studio that first time and did "Sad," and we just had a genuine connection and it's been that way since,” Shane says. Soon after, she became the official “first lady” of Yachty’s endearing crew of collaborators and artist friends, The Sailing Team. “They were doing this video with Petra Collins for FADER. She wanted me to be involved so I guess Yachty asked me,” she says. “It showed people that the girls can run with the guys.” Shane claims that while she flourished and was embraced by the group, she was committed to her music. “My artistry always came first. Being on The Sailing Team was a part of that.”
Shane’s songs march the spectrum between self-aware and sentimental, with heartfelt inflections making each track more resonant. Outside of formal compilations, her Soundcloud is sprinkled with loosies like “Kissing Pink” and “Start a Riot,” where she flexes her vocal range and dedication to pushing sonic boundaries. While all her projects differ greatly, Shane continues to reveal dimensions of her identity as her career progresses. “I’m growing up, starting to have real relationships, and finding myself within my sexuality,” she says. “I’ve never been hesitant. That’s one of the things I try and tell the youth. You don’t have to be scared.”
Rather than clinging to the goal of her early aughts to solely be recognized as a rapper, Shane intends for her future music to be rooted in fluidity. “Some of it's more R&B and I'll still make some songs where I'm just rapping and going crazy. But my overall sound is pop,” she explains. “Everyone wants to be a rockstar. I want to be a pop star.”
For Shane, it’s not a task to encourage her peers while learning how to navigate life as a teetering teen. She welcomes people to look up to her. And she’s working towards becoming more vulnerable to add another level of depth and transparency to her songs, which she says has been therapeutic in expressing her experiences with love. “Everything I do is influenced by love. And not just love, love. Breaking up with a lot of my friends,” she says. “Growing up and growing out of stuff.”
Shane is unabashed in her lyrics and specific about the sometimes messy relationship dynamics between girls and an occasional guy like in her 4-month old bop, “Bounce Back: “I can't trust that girl 'cause she be lyin' to her nigga like that/ Whenever I want her, she come over, yeah, I got it like that.” In the video, Shane’s love interest is her real-life partner, 19- year-old R&B singer Skye Morales. Shane has a candid and lighthearted perspective on why other young people should feel empowered to be open, too. “I just think we’re humans and gender doesn’t matter,” she says. “Kylie Jenner is the only person in America that can keep a secret so it’s no point to be anybody but yourself.”
- Interview: Lakin Starling
- Photography: Kevin Amato
- Photography Assistant: Salim Garcia
- Styling: Kevin Amato
- Hair and Makeup: Amanda Young