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Drakeo the Ruler, whose signature laid-back flow and unapologetic charisma helped to define modern West Coast rap, was killed last weekend in Los Angeles. The rapper, 28, passed on Sunday morning, Dec. 19, after suffering stabbing injuries during an appearance at the Once Upon A Time in LA Festival hosted at Exposition Park.
This news was tragic. Drakeo is my favorite rapper from LA. I listen to him everyday. Growing up in LA, I became a huge fan of his while in high school. As an independent artist, Drakeo could do and say what he wanted. My friends and I found his effortless ability to flow over beats and his almost-flippant level of self-confidence absolutely magnetic.
A couple weeks ago, I was talking with one of those friends from high school about explaining LA rap to people from other cities. He said that he always plays anything by Drakeo.
A big part of my respect and fandom for Drakeo revolved around his legal battle with former Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey. In 2019, the rapper was acquitted of a murder that he did not commit in a case that originated from a 2016 shooting.
Although Drakeo was exonerated of all wrongdoing, former DA Lacey refiled the case to keep the rapper locked up for another full year on the same charges on which he had just been found not guilty.
Seemingly out of a desire to make an example of Drakeo, Lacey tried to officially categorize Drakeo’s rap group, the Stinc Team, as a criminal gang. She also attempted to cite the rapper’s lyrics as evidence against him in court.
To supporters of Drakeo, the behavior of Lacey and the LAPD demonstrated clear racial prejudice against the rapper. Despite the appalling mistreatment he was facing, Drakeo’s resolve remained unphased. The rapper dropped a critically-acclaimed mixtape in 2020, “Thank You for Using GTL,” recorded and released from behind bars.
#FREEDRAKEO became a popular mantra and statement of support among fans of the rapper and fellow LA artists. Drakeo released the “Free Drakeo” loosie mixtape in 2020.
When Lacey lost reelection in November 2020, Drakeo was finally freed after spending three years in custody. One day after Lacey’s removal from office, following a single day of trial, a plea deal was brokered and the rapper was free. LA music journalist Jeff Weiss, whose coverage of Drakeo’s case brought injustices suffered by the rapper to light, tweeted that Lacey’s replacement was essential to reaching a deal.
2021 was the hottest year of Drakeo’s career to date and a triumphant return from his legal battle. He released four full length projects, garnered an illusive Drake feature, and reached fans in new cities.
Last November, I wrote about my Top 5 Drakeo songs in celebration of his release from prison. Here is an updated, unranked list of my favorite Drakeo songs in honor of the late West Coast legend. Rest in Peace. Long Live The Greatest.
“Touchable (Freestyle)” (2021)
This is the 25th of 29 tracks on Drakeo’s most recent tape “So Cold I Do Em 2.” The song is one of the many examples of the rapper’s ability to maintain a high level of quality among the mass quantity of his discography. The “Touchable” beat originally appeared on the single of the same name by LA artist Remble, who Drakeo signed to the Stinc Team this year. Remble’s viral success on TikTok speaks to Drakeo’s keen eye for talent and his position as an architect of the LA rap genre.
“Talk to Me [feat. Drake]” (2021)
An independent rapper landing a Drake feature is almost unheard of, unless you are Drakeo the Ruler. This anti-love love song gave Drakeo his first major radio play and showcases his massive pop crossover appeal. A few months ago, Drake announced Drakeo as the LA representative of his OVO clothing collaboration with the NBA. The track is one of the many stops on Drakeo the Ruler’s 2021 victory lap.
“Fights Don’t Matter” (2020)
“Fights Don’t Matter” was the first single that Drakeo dropped after being released from prison and appears on his 2020 comeback album “We Know the Truth.” It speaks to the unapologetic self-confidence that got him noticed and his unique ear for locating the pocket on beats. The single dropped with a music video that was one of Drakeo’s first public appearances after his release. After being gone for almost three years, it was incredibly powerful to see him return to rap.
“Pow Right in the Kisser [feat. Ketchy the Great, Remble, MoneyMonk & Ralfy the Plug]” (2021)
On this posse track, Drakeo repeats the song’s namesake chorus “Pow Right in the Kisser” every other bar, for over five minutes, but it somehow works. The song is a testament to Drakeo’s expert ear for lyrical delivery. Even when he is rapping the same line over and over, it still sounds amazing. Features include Remble, MoneyMonk, Drakeo’s brother Ralfy the Plug, and the late Stinc Team member Ketchy the Great who passed on in February due to a traffic accident. The track is a time capsule of LA rap and a snapshot of Drakeo at his peak.
—RIP Drakeo. Staff writer Ryan S. Kim can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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