The story of King Los is a pure embodiment of hip-hop. His father, a cable man, was murdered when he was just 16. Growing up in the brutal streets of Baltimore, the hood took him in and he was soon raised by drug king pins. As a high school student, Los, then known as Carlos Coleman, began writing poetry to help deal with the pain of his father’s murder.
Rapping since 1999, Los is no newcomer. P. Diddy signed him to Bad Boy Records in 2005. But the Baltimore entourage that he brought with him – a collection of career criminals – made it difficult for him to do business. As an independent artist he released a mammoth 15 mix tapes, including the highly acclaimed Becoming King.
Los is a hip-hop purist. Clearly not taking any shortcuts, the dedication to his craft can be seen in his mind-blowing freestyles. The freestyle he delivered on Sway’s Five Fingers of Death quickly became acknowledged as an instant classic. He can really, really rap. He earned the praise of Kendrick Lamar for his relentless freestyle over the rappers controversial Control track.
Signed now to RCA Records, King Los has released his first studio album GodMoneyWar. It has elements of the modern hip-hop album, in the A.L.LA.-mode. Minimal beats and cerebral themes. At other times, it’s “broccoli in a Louis Vuitton box” – introspective raps dressed up as trap bangers. And there’s also bars. Lots and lots of bars. Some of the finest wordplay your likely to find anywhere, Eminem-style alliteration and double time rapping. It’s a diverse affair that can be played from the college campus to the club.
Speaking to him, Los has a sunny disposition for a rapper. The presence of his religion means everything he says is sweet and profound. He’s deserving of Meek Mill’s description as the “nicest rapper in the game.”
How hard is it to keep it political and keep it turnt?
Well, that’s real life. I mean at the same time we politicise and we talk and we deal with one another, and we see what’s going on socially around the entire world, and it’s not necessarily good stuff. But we also go to the club and we have fun. You have to be able to balance it man.
The song Slave comes to mind. It’s got a really big trap beat, but the message is very political. It’s got a Future-style beat, but it’s all about the pitfalls of materialism.
I didn’t want this project to be about me being better than people. When I did Slave I spoke about my own slavish mentality. If I can identify it within myself, then we shouldn’t have a problem talking about it. I’m involving myself, I’m not excluding myself and calling you out. That’s why I said “my rolly got me pussy whipped” – like I talked about certain materialistic things. That’s the slave mentality, and where we come from.
You, Kendrick Lamar, Run the Jewels, even A$AP Rocky – do you think consciousness and lyricism in hip-hop has become cool again?
I think It was always cool you know. What happens is like; the more conscious [fans] are the biggest fucking hypocrites. People who like other types of music like Future, stepped up and supported it. Fans need to support conscious artists, so that they can have a platform to the shift the culture a little bit so it won’t be so one sided. The people who love to go clubbing, who love Future, they’re coming out to support. It’s not that it got cool again, it’s always been cool, but people are afraid to support it because they’re not certain of themselves.
The film clip for Ghetto Boy, the film clip for War – they’re both very powerful. How important is it for Baltimore to have a hip hop voice, and have its own hip-hop success story right now?
Well for one thing, we’ve never had it. It’s the city that needs constant reassurance. It’s a place where there’s not an extreme amount of success for you to visually capture. You don’t have much but the streets to confide with. We need constant reassurance. We need to win Superbowls, we need basketball teams. We need to say “that’s ours.” When the Ravens won – there was like no crime. People were so happy and so elated to be part of something so special. We need that constant reassurance and that’s why its important that I do well.
One of the most amazing moments on the record is having your son on it. How important is the idea of fatherhood to you and particularly where you come from?
It’s extremely important. Think about what a dad means to a household. We need that stability, that rock to be in the home sometimes. You need a protector, not just as a son, your dad has to the be the protector of your mother. Momma can’t do it alone God bless her sweet soul. Not even just as a son. Even your mum. Your dad has to the protector of your mother. We need men in the community, we need men in the streets, men in the army, in the government. We need men to be there and women to balance that. Soft, sweeter, more nurturing. The father is extremely important.
The record is GOD – MoneyWar – what would you say about the place of religion in hip-hop today?
I think god is bigger than he’s ever been. It might not be to everyone’s liking, it may not be sitting with everyone’s perception of god. But god is extremely present right now, and you know he’s in rap, he’s in the filthiest rap. The most gangster rap. People appreciate god in all his forms and I don’t think its fair to only respect the most righteous form, because at the end of the day a sin is a sin. We’re all guilty and we need to be cleansed with his love. At the end of the day god is really really strong. What we have to do is unite. From the United States to Australia, to China to Egypt to South America. We don’t need to be foreign to each other. Everyone has their own way of relating to god, but we need to get together to find out how to relate to each other.
The album GodMoneyWar is available on iTunes now and it is absolutely cranking.