Drakeo the Ruler’s past nine months have been an example of making the most of a second chance, albeit a situation he should’ve never been in.
He faced a potential life sentence for first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder charges, powered by intense persecution by the allegedly racist Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and the District Attorney’s office, who tried to get Drakeo and his Stinc team locked up despite flimsy evidence. But in a twist of fate, D.A. Jackie Lacey was ousted on election night in 2020, opening a window for Drakeo to accept a plea deal to end his three-year sentence. Since his release, he’s been out burning a path of glory, exhibiting why he’s one of the most talented rappers on the West Coast.
Riding the well-earned momentum of a prolific work rate, he’s amassed a significant amount of goodwill among fans and industry peers alike. On his previous projects, he rubbed elbows with the likes of Drake and Blxst, plus staples from the Michigan scene such as Rio Da Yung OG, Icewear Vezzo and RMC Mike to prove he’s a jack of all trades. On his latest release, Ain’t That The Truth, Drakeo entrenches himself in the very characteristics that made him a budding star to this point.
Armed with a battalion of threats reaching to the darkest recesses of the dictionary, he puts on a lyrical show stocked with consistent highs. He returns to his element, manipulating the English language to craft complex bars about the day to day high points and trials about being a street rapper in South Central, delivered in a clear and concise way to make even the most ignorant and uninformed listener understand his reality. The peaks occur when Drakeo is alone on a track, ensuring he’s the biggest star at all times.
“Way Before The Fame” is a rapping exhibition, where he rattles off expensive bracelets and watches like it’s a mundane grocery store list; Rolls-Royces and Bentleys are nothing more than commonplace purchases for Drakeo. In between the braggadocious bars, he recounts the injustices faced at the hands of the treacherous Lacey, with both the past pain and promising future swirling in his mind. At the start of the track, he raps, “The D.A. said I had mops hidden in the sofa,” and then alludes to his collaboration with Drake just lines later, haunted by the trauma in the rearview mirror.
On the album’s opener “Just Dance,” he’s backed by dark and brooding production from Al B Smoov. His whispers are low and purposeful, forcing the listener to physically lean in to hear every word and focus intently on the inner workings of his mind. He lures them in with his tone. Once drawn in, he captivates with threats served with excruciating clarity. He raps with steely assurance, “I don’t know why n-ggas is lookin’ so surprised, we don’t fight n-ggas,” to make it clear anyone stepping to him must have a death wish.
He calls on EST Gee for the track “Tricky Ball Play,” where Drakeo’s straight-laced, muted raps form an attractive foil with Gee’s noticeably louder verse. Where the Louisville native’s performance is abrasive and in-your-face, Drakeo’s lines sneak into the listener’s eardrums undetected. “Should I Kill Him” showcases Drakeo’s continued fascination with Detroit, snagging Peezy to playfully muse with him about threats of bodily harm over soothing strings. The two rappers’ styles bounce off each other, elevating the energy of the collaboration.
There are tracks that bog down the project’s momentum in the later stretches. “Chops Out” stands out for all the wrong reasons, featuring an unnecessary and uninspired guest appearance from Tory Lanez. Lanez’s lack of ability is exposed on the Enrgy Beats production, with his appearance being a disservice to the project’s consistent quality. Every moment he takes up could be replaced by Drakeo, Ralfy or Remble, as his imitation comes off like a kid brother trying to fit in with his older sibling’s clique.
Even as Drakeo attempts to flex his muscles by inviting unfamiliar collaborators, he returns to his Stinc Team roots by including mainstay Ralfy the Plug on five tracks. The best example of the duo’s unshakeable chemistry is the album’s titular closing track. It’s a glorious back and forth where both rappers take a moment to reflect on everything they’ve amassed and how they’ve dispatched anything standing in their way. It doesn’t register as resting on one’s laurels but instead, taking stock of what they earned and what’s left to conquer.
Drakeo could’ve elected to slow down his pace and let any of his previous releases marinate for two to three years. In most cases, it would be the smart choice. Instead, he pushed down on the throttle and dug deeper in his goldmine of creative prowess.
Urgency drives Drakeo; he’s making up for lost time and stamping his legacy while looking over his shoulder. However, this can create fatigue with continuous drops. It’s easy to oversaturate the market with a signature style. But Drakeo avoids these pitfalls by providing quality control and consistency others in the LA street rap genre simply can’t match. Ain’t That The Truth is a return to his strengths, hinging on the power of Drakeo’s voice instead of relying on assists from high-powered features.
He’s proving it’s hard to grow bored of his subdued delivery as he finds new ways to construct bars and stark tales from the streets, even while delivering projects to consume en masse.
I messing wit Drakeo The Ruler, Vince Staples, EST Gee, and Isaiah Rashad projects https://t.co/TsUTrc92Kv
— Legal Lo ⚖️ (@SirLogan_21) August 1, 2021
Drakeo the ruler is top 3 rn no debate
— Coop (@coopstuh) August 1, 2021