Kodie Shane
Pride

Rapper Kodie Shane: Confident, Young, Black, Queer & About to Take Over

Each month, Billboard Pride celebrates an LGBTQ act as its Artist of the Month. Our February selection: Atlanta-based rapper Kodie Shane.

20-year-old rapper Kodie Shane grew up with Barack Obama as president. That sense of security, she says, is why she always felt comfortable in her own skin as a queer black woman. But when she realized her little brother has known no other president, that’s when the weight of the current political climate, one led by Donald Trump, really hit.

“[People] think the world took two steps forward, but it actually took 10 steps backward,” Shane says from the lobby of her posh metro Atlanta apartment. “The president is making a lot of people feel like their behavior is OK. I saw another lady on Twitter talking to a black girl like, “What is wrong with your hair? That looks horrible.” Just going in on her. A lot of people felt like we ran the world for how long ... shout out to Obama. And now they run the world.”

Born Kodie Williams and raised in Chicago, the Atlanta-based artist started rapping after her move -- “there’s an Atlanta vibe in my sound,” she says -- and became a member of Lil Yachty’s Sailing Team in 2016. “Atlanta definitely has embraced me,” she adds. “If I throw a show in Atlanta, it’s gon’ go crazy.

In 2016, Shane released breakout single “Sad” and in 2018 dropped her debut full-length Young Heartthrob. On the album art, she’s slouched on a couch, wearing a brown blouse and white pants while flanked by women. The image is straight out of the 70s music era. And while Shane has always considered herself to be ahead of her time as an artist, her debut is the push she needed to go even further. Her melodies are tighter. Her lyrics more succinct. And it’s title says it all; Shane’s ability to tap into the vulnerability of young-adult emotions, juxtaposed by her self-assuredness, is what makes her so endearing.

“All my life, my family has really instilled confidence in me,” she says, pointing out she has seven sisters. “I’ve always looked up to them. I’m a lot of who I am because I have so many different females in my life.” Shane’s mom (who is her manager) and sister Brandi Williams, of the early 2000s group Blaque, have been particularly helpful as she adjusts to the demands of fans and fame. “[Brandi tells me to] stay humble and sweet. That’s something her and my dad have been telling me all my life. It’s something I still live by.”

Growing up in a family that was already familiar with the entertainment industry is largely why Shane believes she was born to be an entertainer in some form (at a young age she had hopes of being an actress or an athlete). She says she and music “found each other” and that it came into her life naturally. After moving to Atlanta, Shane started hanging out in studios with her mom. “That’s what made me find my own love for it,” she says.

But, unlike her sister before her, Shane is navigating newer obstacles that come with being an artist today. Namely, social media. “There are always going to be some things that I keep for myself. Period,” Shane says of her approach to her online presence. “If that means my road might take a little longer, fine. I’m invested in the music, not the antics. It’s harder and harder to do every day because people are videoing their pregnancy to go viral.”

Even so, Shane can’t help but be “excited for the pictures I’m about to take” on her first headlining tour, which kicked off Feb. 5 in Sweden. “I’m excited to go to London,” she says, “but Amsterdam? I definitely can’t wait to go there.”

She admits the tour will be taxing in more ways than one -- she’s been working out to build up stamina for the road. for the grueling schedule, and knows it will be hard to be away from the people she loves -- but still, she says, “I love to be in different cities all the time. It’s a spiritual journey to me.”

Her headlining tour is more than just a promotional run, it’s also an opportunity for Shane to become more business savvy. “I’m the type of artist where I want to know everything,” she says. “Even if I’m not involved, or something that’s going to be fixed in an hour, I want to know. I don’t ever think I’ll be more business than creative, but I definitely do want to sharpen up the things that I know about business.”

Coming up, she’s working on more music and wants to up her use of features, which she shied away from on her debut because, as she says, “I wanted people to say, ‘That was a good album because of Kodie.’” But, before all of that, in the days before her tour begins, her friends suggest they all go paintballing. Shane instead wants to hit up Cascade Family Skating, the rink made popular by T.I.’s coming-of-age skate film ATL, the indoor trampoline park Sky Zone or the go kart tracks. For all the maturity heard in the 20-year-old’s music, she’s in no hurry to grow up.

A version of this article originally appeared in the Feb. 16 issue of Billboard.