Drakeo The Ruler defined a new generation of LA rap
By now you’re probably aware of the death of Drakeo The Ruler, who was stabbed in the neck backstage at the Once Upon A Time In LA festival. You might not have known who Drakeo The Ruler was, or why playing there was so important. As he himself would say, it’s because he “is LA hip-hop”. While that might sound like typical rapper self-glorification, in Drakeo’s case, it was especially true.
Check out this track I wrote almost four years ago in which I called Drakeo one of the architects of the new LA underground sound alongside 03 Greedo and Shoreline Mafia. So far, this assessment has held true even despite a series of setbacks that had so far prevented this underground sound from penetrating the mainstream (insofar as there is even a difference between underground and mainstream in the modern, spotified era of rap).
While Shoreline Mafia eventually broke up, individual members like Fenix Flexin and OhGeesy made a significant impact with their own solo material. 03 Greedo went to jail in Texas for gun possession, but has since dropped a slew of taped projects in the months before his sentence began. And Drakeo himself spent nearly two years in prison fighting charges of attempted murder without bail, but recorded his own project behind the walls, maintaining his presence on the outside before being released in transition. between Los Angeles district attorneys after last year’s election.
He returned with a vengeance, releasing a studio album and two mixtapes in quick succession within months of its release – a testament to his vaunted prolific work ethic. And while those indie projects weren’t topping the charts, it’s in Drakeo’s influence on the LA scene that we can see the most evidence in support of his claim to be the avatar of the city’s new approach to hip-hop.
The slippery, off-kilter cadence he employs throughout much of his catalog has been replicated in the elaborate punchlines of West Coast wildcards like 1TakeJay, AzChike, BlueBucksClan and Drakeo’s own protege, Rembl, while the stoppage of his hometown on his recent tour saw a line for the Novo wrapped not just around the block, but around almost the entire LA Live campus, something I hadn’t personally witnessed in any of my many (many) forays into the area for Clippers gigs and games.
However, his death isn’t just a loss to LA hip-hop — it’s also an indictment of many systems in our society, starting with the justice system. No one could have predicted that he would die less than a year after his release, but it’s an absolute travesty that anyone could be locked up for most of the last two years of their life. before never been convicted of a crime. Life is so short and so precious; there must be alternatives to simply incarcerating those suspected of crimes.
And yes, there are probably some complaints about Live Nation, which organized the Once Upon A Time In LA festival. Drakeo’s mother has already begun to file a lawsuit against the promoter, citing a lack of security behind the scenes, the need of which anyone who has ever spent time on the streets of Los Angeles should have seen. Like more than one Twitter user put it i.e. too many gangs in one place, and certainly not the place or time to cut costs by hiring fewer guards. That this could happen demonstrates either a lack of awareness of the acts involved — certainly in line with corporate America’s level of shallow, profit-driven engagement with hip-hop and black culture — or a callous disregard for their safety. . It’s doubly damning that Live Nation is already under fire for its final festival this year, the disastrous Astroworld, where 10 people were killed in a crowd crush, believed to be caused in part by the lack of security.
A growing feeling among the segment of my social network that comments on events in Los Angeles is that “something” is going on in the city. In recent years, the LA area has seen the violent deaths of an inordinate number of rappers, from Nipsey Hussle to Pop Smoke. However, it’s not just something limited to LA – in Dallas, we saw the shooting death of local rapper Mo3, and in Memphis, Young Dolph was also killed. Unfortunately, hip-hop has always been an indicator of larger trends in society.
The fact that there seems to be a tendency for rappers to meet violent ends only says that America has yet to address the underlying circumstances that cause violence in the communities that produce these rappers, who drive these rappers to produce violent music reflecting their circumstances, and who cause that violence only to find them even as they strive to leave it behind. No one should live like this, forced to look over their shoulder at home as thousands of fans scramble to hear more horror stories than they themselves will ever have to experience. All of these rappers, including Drakeo, are the canaries of the coal mine. I wonder if America will stop digging before it’s too late.