“You should listen to this 'Control' freestyle”
The words left his mouth and entered my ears like the bloody screech of a disgruntled cat being bathed in molten lava. After a year of being trapped in “Control” response purgatory even DJ Khaled wouldn’t request another one. The years of friendship allowed him to read the short story that was typed in bold across my face without a word being spoken, he persisted out of the millions of verses that were traveling the internet like how the Black Death traveled Europe - he said King Los had the best. His name was familiar, I vaguely recalled another close associate applauding his ability to rap, that he was a word spitting machine with bars that gave birth to bars. Their admiration for him reminded me of our high school days when we would spend hours perusing the internet searching for the hottest “A Milli” freestyle, prowling every blog hoping to uncover the most scorching "Exhibit C," it was all we cared to discuss, who killed it?
King Los was said to be a beast kin to monsters like Wayne, Cassidy, Fabolous, Slaughterhouse (before they became a 4-man-unit) and all the others revered for kidnapping songs and using them as punching bags for our entertainment. I wasn’t starved for another rapper cut from their cloth, lyrical miracles no longer appeared to me as acts of walking on water, especially if “Control” was the ocean he was crossing. Even now I’ll scroll pass freestyles that are featured on blogs, there’s very little allure. Killing it is cool but I just want more.
I would continue to see my friend and he would continue to sing Los' praises. You would’ve thought he was one of the knights at King Los’ roundtable the way he championed the lyricist. Every time I would sit in his car for a ride to a concert or trip to the store he had a new freestyle that he wanted to play, the song that would make me a fan, but I continued to resist. I was waiting for something special, for him to bring a song that I couldn’t deny. It was no different than the time I flooded his email with J. Cole songs trying to convince him that The Warm Up would be the best gift he could give his ears. That’s what best friends do, nag each other until the vision gets across.
Then one day last year when I entered into the passenger seat he gave me his phone, “Watch this video” is all he said to me. It was called “War” by King Los. Based on the title and the rapper, I concluded that the song would be his lyrical assault against the rap game. That he would drop a couple of atomic bombs or missiles on some of rap's most elite and prove why he wears the crown. This was my deduction before pressing play, my premature assumption, but our grade school teachers taught us all what happens when you assume.
Immediately my attention was grabbed, the beat was original, this wasn’t just another freestyle. How the video was shot also had me interested, there were no cuts or transitions, just a roaming camera that was capturing everything in the house. The first verse is rapped from the perspective of a man that only knows a life in the streets, he intensely captures the embodiment of a perspective that talks about the street life without any gloss or glory. The second verse flips the perspective, Los speaks to his friend about how that internal war is the true battle. To obtain a better life starts by getting right with self and not conforming to the influence of what surrounds you. Los displays empathy, even admitting his own digressions. The conflicting mindsets remind me of the prayer Omar Gooding says in Baby Boy.
Dear Lord, Please forgive us for all our sins we have brought upon us. And look down upon us with forgiveness for all our sins we will have in the future. I know you understand that brothers ain’t perfect, but we try lord. We try to keep our heads up in bad times. This is a bad time. Show us the way. And if you can’t show us the way… then forgive us for being lost.
Before I could look up from the phone, I could feel his cheesy grin, he could read my expression, he finally had me. This was the song, from the content to the concept it was excellently done. It’s impressive, being able to capture two conflicting mentalities with such imagery proved how potent his pen could be. Los had more to offer than punchlines and entendres, he could make powerful statements. The seamless switch to Biggie's flow on “Notorious Thugs” in the second verse showcased how he could deliver the heralded lines in ways to keep listeners captivated. Multiple flows, detailed storytelling, thought-provoking lyricism, enthralling music with a video to match. He had me, it only takes one record to make someone a fan, I wasn’t on the bandwagon but he had my interest. If he could deliver an album that carried this quality, I’d gladly buy a ticket and grab a window seat in the front row.
I wouldn’t hear his album until I was sitting in that same passenger seat, road tripping to Orlando with six hours to spare before the arrival time. The road was open, the sky was blue, the tank was full with nothing but time to kill, perfect chance to hear his album in its entirety. The title was God, Money, War and the album cover was a tattered, bloody dollar with Jesus in the center wearing a crown of thorns and his eyes covered with a black bar. In the corners instead of a dollar amount there’s crosses and choppers, further symbolizing the idea of God and war. By far one of the stronger covers of 2015.
“War” is the intro, it’s better with the video bringing his lyrics to life, but still a powerful start. It’s followed by “Ghetto Boy,” the somberness is stripped away and we go from the mad city to a boy describing his upbringing from the bottom. Very different from the one Drake started from. Production is a fusion of rock and hip-hop, the hook is a harsh illustration of what the ghetto is perceived to be from the outside. The second verse is where Los shines, his flow is sharper than the fangs on a starving Sabertooth. It doesn’t display the same spirit of “War” but it showed versatility.
The title track is good, containing a very poignant line, “If heaven free what we kill for money for?” His Christianity is fully displayed on this album, Jesus walks all across the LP, but I love the last bridge and the beginning of the third verse is rapped from his mother’s perspective. “Just so happens when you rap you give God a section in yo verse, might sound crazy, but just maybe your protection on this Earth,” which is a close cousin to Kanye's, “Well if this take away from my spins / Which'll probably take away from my ends / then I hope this take away from my sins” lyric. Even though his mother truly believes that placing ten dollars in the collection plate and praying that it works will bring better days, it’s another song that ends with Los making a gun sound.
Next we transition into “Lil Black Boy,” a dedication to his son and all the little black boys. The verses are more poetry than rapping, it’s very easy to get sucked into his spoken word. The second verse he flips the script once again, the dedication becomes a cross examination from the black boys with fleeting and fleeing fathers. My only problem is it becomes difficult to distinguish the two, giving the child his own voice would have made the record that much more impactful. It’s still a strong, solid message about how a loving father can see perfection in a newborn and how a son can see war from a distancing/disappeared father.
“Black Blood” continues the look at lineage except Los becomes the son and he speaks on the father that was murdered at 16. Isaiah Rashad has a short opening verse, it’s cool in the context that he could easily have been seen as an example of the “Lil Black Boy” from previous songs knowing his turbulent relationship with his own dad. The first six songs are all strong, really creating this illustration of ghetto living where God, money, and war are all the biggest influences.
This is the rags of the story, “Glory To The Lord” introduces the riches. He gives all praise to the most high but it’s painfully pop-esque. It’s the first song that steps away from the cracks and crevices and steps into the light, even the RCA-manufactured R. Kelly feature is painfully positive. It continues with a more upbeat, commercial sound with the DJ Mustard “Can’t Fade Us.” It feels like an evolved version of a song Meek Mill would make. There’s still bars but the change in mood severely ruins his momentum. For the rest of the album he continues to hit or miss, falling victim to stretching himself in the name of versatility. “Slave” and “King” aren’t bad, dimmed records that outshine the worst records. “Blame It On The Money” is for anyone that’s been craving a resurgence of J-Kwon’s Tipsy flow.
By the end, it became very clear that King Los is talented, thoughtful, and able to articulate his serious views. He had something to say and he did it well for the first half. If he continues to show the range in artistry that appears in “War,” then I will have no problem pressing play on every new single or video. Due to some peer pressure, I finally caved and gave his freestyles a listen. He’s most definitely the kind monster that would have hunted beats with Wayne in his prime. Drake’s “Pound Cake” was left mutilated, his multiple appearances on Sway in the Morning are what happens when you throw molotov cocktails at gas stations pumps and after finally hearing his “Control” I understand why Kendrick said it was his favorite.
Los isn’t new, he’s had two deals with Bad-Boy since 2005 and is currently signed to RCA and 88 Classic. It took him about a decade to release his debut album God, Money, and War but like wine the time only made him better. It took some urging from a good friend, but I see the prowess and the potential, He's more than just a rapper that slaughters freestyles. I’m waking up, no longer sleeping and snoring on Los.
He might not have rap’s crown yet, but if he continues to grow and masters making music like “War,” “Black Blood” and “Lil Black Boy,” the crown won’t be far from his grasp.