For Los Angeles rap fans, the name Drakeo the Ruler isn’t anything new.
Drakeo has moved around the margins of the LA underground over the past couple years, earning a co-sign from LA hitmaker DJ Mustard with “Mr. Get Dough” in 2015.
Since then, he’s fallen out with Mustard, self-released a couple projects, and spent most of 2017 in prison on gun charges.
After getting out in early December, Drakeo quickly dropped Cold Devil, a 16-track album that showcases the South Central rapper as an intriguing new voice in West Coast rap.
Drakeo’s style is immediately magnetic. His lowkey, muted, and unorthodox flow bears in stark contrast to the urgent yah-yahing of many contemporary rappers. It’s as if rhyming just comes easy to Drakeo and he just can’t be bothered with his own talents.
Instead of using his voice to ride the beat, Drakeo often rhymes against the drums, again making Drakeo an extremely different artist to his contemporaries.
Modern hip-hop is dominated by production that can overwhelm the song, becoming the most compelling part of the track. On Cold Devil, Drakeo’s voice, his ridiculous putdowns, and distinct LA vernacular are the most compelling aspects of the project.
Most tracks off Cold Devil begin with a mumbled monologue boasting about his wealth or directly aimed at Drakeo’s haters.
Sometimes these riffs are laugh out loud funny (“Princess cuts on my wrist like a emo bitch”), sometimes they’re murderous threats (“Ain’t with the squabbling, you finna get your celly popped”), but always delivered in the same unbothered LA accent that makes Drakeo’s music so unique.
On “Neiman & Marcus Don’t Know You” many of Drakeo’s trademarks are on display.
The song’s title itself is a putdown to wannabe rappers who aren’t nearly as popping as they claim to be. In fact, they don’t even know the proprietors of Neiman Marcus personally.
Drakeo belittles these rappers who act like they have it:
“N****s talkin’ all these coupes, where the dash, where your logo
In the back of your Snapchat is a Volvo”
But on “Fool’s Gold” Drakeo concedes that these kids give him material, muttering, “These clown n****s give me new songs.”
Along with his unique cadence and delivery, Drakeo’s bars are full of his own LA vernacular.
Song titles include “Flu Flamming”, “Big Banc Uchies”, “Blamped” and Drakeo has somewhat trademarked the phrase “mud walking” (which presumably means to walk around while on lean).
LA Weekly spoke to Drakeo in February while he was behind bars and asked him about his lingo, he responded that it’s just him, in fact it’s what makes him great:
“It’s how me and the homies have always talked. Everyone would always ask, ‘Why y’all talk like that?’ I don’t understand how people can use ghostwriters. I’m trying to bring an original style and never sound like anyone else.”
His distinct bouts of vocabulary inspiration (like nicknaming his gun “pippy long stalking”) have seen Drakeo compared to Bay Area legend E-40, but the more appropriate and exciting comparison is Gucci Mane.
Drakeo has an off-the-top, muttered (not mumbled!), leaned out flow that recalls early Gucci Mane. It’s a wild comparison, but one that’s been made before.
The title of LA Weekly’s February article, “Drakeo Could Be LA’s Gucci Mane — and Not Just Because He’s Currently Doing Time“, seems hyperbolic at first, but taking into account his growing hometown reputation (his flow is already being copied all over the LA hip-hop scene) and the apparent ease at which he can craft braggadocious, hilarious, brutal, and witty art, the comparison seems pretty apt.
On “They Don’t Know You” Drakeo raps about how “Benjamin and Franklin don’t even know you,” in one of the best disses in recent hip-hop memory. The pure ridiculousness, but magnetism, of the song reminds one of early Gucci.
The second half of Cold Devil features a collection of features from other LA artists including Ralfy the Plug (Drakeo’s brother) and the rising sing-rapper 03 Greedo.
Drakeo and 03 Greedo’s collaboration “In the Slums” is an exciting track where the styles of the two rappers combines to make a bone-chilling and head bopping product.
Drakeo’s lowkey flow contrasts with Greedo’s excited yelps, it’s a duo that can make really intriguing music and now it seems a collaboration album between the two is on the way.
It’s early days for Drakeo the Ruler’s career, but the pure energy on Cold Devil makes him a truly compelling artist in LA hip-hop and beyond.
He’s one to keep an eye on in 2018.