Interview: King Los Gets Deeper Than Rap On ‘God, Money, War’
Remember when Kendrick Lamar shocked hip-hop and set the bar for firing shots with his “Control” verse? Some of your favorite rappers made futile attempts to blast back but guess who K. Dot said had the best response? That’s right, King Los. The connoisseur of unfiltered rhymes and hard-hitting metaphors, Los has bagged many co-signs, from mentor, Diddy, to superior lyricist, Lupe Fiasco, who has gone on-record claiming Los has a razor sharp mouthpiece. There’s also footage of Los trading mean bars with Philly’s Meek Mill. And who can forget the infamous 10-minute freestyle Los performed back in ’05 for Puff that landed the Baltimore native his first record deal?
Before the ink dried on Los’ contract with Bad Boy, Diddy let the rhymeslinger go after authorities popped up at the Bad Boy offices, inquiring about Los’ street team. “All of them dudes that I brought to Bad Boy then are doing Fed time now or just coming home,” Los said to VIBE at RCA Records’ New York HQ.
Losing a record deal is enough to make any man holler like Marvin Gaye but Los is a hustler. Keeping his name buzzing in the streets with mixtapes, Los caught the attention of Diddy once again, which resulted in a second Bad Boy deal. After two mixtapes under Diddy’s tutelage, The Crown Ain’t Safe and Becoming King, Los released 2014’s Zero Gravity II, and announced his departure from BBE.
With a new deal in place, over a decade in the rap game and losing friends to the streets, King Los has finally dropped what he calls his pre-debut album, God, Money, War (which landed June 23). Here, Los discusses his current situation, latest release and using his platform to inspire others.
VIBE: You’ve been through a lot since your first deal. Is this the album you’ve been waiting to make your entire career?
King Los: No, it was just a necessary component in time that was needed in the moment. It wasn’t like the thing I’ve been waiting for my whole life. It was just like, “Yo, this is what I do anyway.” And now the people need to hear it. It was just that simple.
With the exception of one or two songs, the entire project is dipped in inspiration.
Exactly. That’s my lane—to inspire people. I’m somewhat of a motivational speaker, you can say. It was a basis of that and watching the different things that were going on and just being concerned. This project was not about me. It was a selfless project. So I went in there to say and do things that will help people.
One of my favorite songs on the album is “Lil’ Black Boy.” Is that track especially special to you since your son is on it?
“Black Blood” is my favorite. There’s nothing negative about that song, the beat or the way Isaiah Rashad approached it. And then that hook with that voice. I was able to add my piece of art to it and low-key snapped on my verse.
That’s definitely a stand-out track. Isaiah came correct on that sh**.
I’m calling him the Basquiat of hip-hop. His whole approach to that song is so uncanny to me. Just because him knowing to go there more melodically. His whole approach is just so abstract. He’s singing behind his verse. He’s humming behind some parts of it, and he said, “I know that black love keep the sun shining on your face.” Those words are so poetic to me.
He’s been M.I.A for a minute. Why’d you go with him for that?
The track had made it to him and he laid an idea down on it through the label or something. That chemistry was awesome. But if we ever get to work together in the same room, I can only imagine [what would happen].
Compared to your other projects, your message on God, Money, War come across more fluidly.
I learned to be a better communicator and that a messenger is responsible for the message. I’ve also learned how to be more relatable and how to be more positive.
I know at one time you were really interested in Robert Frost. Are you a heavy reader?
That’s when I first started writing. I have the Alchemist in my book bag. I haven’t read it yet but I keep it in my book bag waiting for the right moment. But I feel like the stuff that people give me to read is about stuff that I’m already on. If anything, it’ll just be a confirmation of what I’m already thinking. I don’t read because I’m so full of stuff. Honestly, I’m constantly outpouring stuff and I’m constantly learning from life. I’m really just Macgyver’ing my way through life. But I do study on the Internet and listen to speakers. I listen to Ravi Zacharias so if I were reading something, it would be a book by Ravi Zacharais. I’m going to start really getting into my readings. And I want to challenge you to go listen to something by Ravi: “Why Doesn’t God Stop Rape Or Those Who Hurt The Innocent?” Listen to that piece ‘cause it’s essential to understanding. And it’s going to connect something for you in a major way and give you a deeper insight into something, which is going to grant you foresight, especially with this Charleston thing. Then I want you to share it with someone else.
Speaking of Charleston, share your thoughts on that situation.
The Charleston situation is just unfortunate. It’s such a fluke thing to walk up to a place that’s supposed to be respected as a temple of God, a representation of God, and go in there and do something so evil. But at the same time, the reason why evil is so reflected in this world is so that people have to need God because at any given time, anybody can do anything evil. So if everybody keeps walking around, not loving and believing in God, not trusting in God then that’s what happens. That’s why we need God, not, ‘Oh, ‘cause when evil stuff happens, there’s no God.’ No, we need God because there’s a possibility that evil can happen at any given time. So we need something to help us balance all that. And the more God we have, the less we have people running up in churches and doing that.
You’re really teaching on this album. This is really good for your son when he gets older.
Kids need not just our help, but the help of God. We have to introduce them to God and not let them grow up to do whatever they want in their rooms all quiet and not checking on them. The more these kids are raised the right way, they won’t ever go grab a gun and kill a group of people, not when it’s God in them.
Let’s switch gears a bit. I’ve been itching to get answers to this since it came out. Diddy popping sh*t on Rick Ross’ Mastermind is mad dope yet it seems like he’s barking on you. Clear that up for us.
Everybody asking about that sh*t. That shit is f**king legendary. [Ed. Note: King Los played unreleased audio of Diddy spazzing about money, mansions and certain people having the DNA to do certain things in a certain way. Los asked for song’s contents to not be published.] So basically, I’m showing you that I have all this sh*t that Diddy be saying. It wasn’t like he was going off on me. We have these moments where I’m like his amp guy, and of course, he uses points of reference where he points out certain things you might be doing that he’s accenting in his rants or his motivational speeches. We have these moments where we share with each other, when I’m like, ‘Well, talk that sh*t, Puff.” And he like, “Yeah, I’m the muthaf**kin’…” So we were having one of those moments and even about the direction that I want to go in as an artist, which kind of leads up to [the theme of] God, Money, War. Being more godly. He embodies that. It’s was like brother to brother. ‘Yo, You don’t want to walk with them f**king roaches, B. You want to walk with God.’
He knew I was recording. Every time he do that, I push play. So that’s what happened. I recorded it just like that. The next day he was like, ‘Yo, last night was crazy, right? You recorded it?’ I did. Once I sent it to him, he let French [Montana] hear it. Once he let French hear it, French asked if he could have it. And Puff has this thing where he can’t say no to people, especially when it’s like me, French, people like his lil’ brothers. French played it for Ross and Ross was like, ‘Yo, I need that for my album for an intro.’ [King Los plays the tape again, but only for a few seconds before smiling hard and stopping it] I got so much sh*t, bro. I got the gold mind. I got sh*t with me and Pharrell going back and forth, freestyling, coming up with song concepts and sh*t. I got that archive. I’m going to have this sh*t all over my album. I’ma do something creative like chop it up to pieces and do a record. I got enough sh*t to set it up like just a conversation that’ll inspire the world.