Does King Los win the Game of Thrones that’s taking place in hip-hop in 2015?
We’re noticing a pattern here.
2015 has reaped handfuls of fantastic album releases from artists major and minor, that are equal parts dense and relisten-able. It seems that with each studio release from a rapper with radioplay, conscientious hip-hop is becoming accessible again. While King Los may not be the most household name in the industry, his alliances with more “pop-hoppy” acts like Kid Ink, and his being groomed by Diddy, make his studio debut– God, Money, War — another implication of this emerging trend in hip-hop; conscious music being cool again; and what’s more– you don’t have to hang your hat on it.
Don’t get me wrong, some of my favorite rappers of all time have made lucrative careers out of allowing the bulk of their library be music of and for the people (Common comes to mind), but that was then, and this is now. In an age where the banger is in high demand, a record that is entirely awesome otherwise may be forgotten if they’re void of one. Yet, with the influx of tragic headlines that directly affect the hip-hop community and the lives (or former lives) of the emcees who are a part of it, if an artist tries to get away without a real swing at achieving some gravitas on their album it comes off as wildly inauthentic.
King Los does that in spades on God, Money, War. Maybe that’s unsurprising, given his poetry roots growing up in Baltimore, and being under the thumb of the Bad Boy Records brain trust,maybe it should have been expected that Los would be worthy of being considered royalty. Since 2005, King Los has been under the tutelage of Diddy, who has developed more one-hit wonders in this phase in his career than hip-hop giants. GMW does a lot in supporting the idea that, perhaps, Los is the perfect emcee to be filtered through the Diddy machine. Mogul Sean Combs serves as the executive producer here, and you can bet that he had something to do with infusing the party vibes on tracks like “Can’t Fade Us.” Still, it’s Los’ job to take the ball and run with it– and he does, providing fire like “I slide off with a brunette, wake up with a few blondes/My hoes do Louboutins, your hoes do futons” on “Can’t Fade Us,” and knock out blows and dizzying flows on “Slave.”
Not as young of a gun as authors of other articulate efforts this year like A$AP Rocky and Kendrick Lamar, King Los’ life experience and fatherhood prove to be an asset, as it provides a full spectrum of color that GMW is vibrantly comprised of. It makes Los capable and credible when he provides a song like “Black Blood,” successfully manifesting a song heartbreaking in content (“They killed my pop when I was just sixteen/They took my innocence away from me/In my hood I done did some crazy things/But that’s all the shit that made me a king”) that I still feel compelled to listen to on loop. Then, to follow up this track with the R. Kelly-assisted bonafide radio-bound hit, that is so poppin’ you can practically taste the champagne– King Los is flaunting his crown.
The somewhat eponymous closing track “King” opens with a sampled monologue that asks you “are you ready, can you dig it?” right before King Los digs his feet in the ground and challenges the game, confronts being considered an ‘underrated’ emcee, and drops his best bars (“I’m twice as nice as Bible recitals, minus the title/The Eifel tower, your idol, the highest title, the vital/Not to mention, the chosen, flow so cold, these scriptures is cryogenically frozen”). If his current place on top of the charts in sales is any indication, we most certainly can dig it. After brewing for years in featuring roles (most popularly on the Bad Boy showcase “Ocho Cinco” that charted upon its initial release) and countless mixtapes between 2008 and 2014, King Los’ God, Money, War is not only another chapter in the renaissance of hip-hop that’s taking place this year, but (hopefully) a big step forward for Los career-wise. It’s his debut release via RCA, although not his proper debut album, which will follow. Nonetheless, it’s release will hopefully see Los rise up from the sort of hip-hop purgatory he’s been sitting in for years now– but we can’t be too sure. The album, although possibly an aim for the charts is dense; dense with bars and dense with production. While there are many aspects to enjoy in its density, will it actually widen Los’ fanbase? It could be similar to the case with Young Thug‘s Barter 6: there is not a lot here to drive in new fans, rather, a great album for all the fans that have been sticking around.