Winter’s Coming: Drakeo Returns with ‘Cold Devil’

Rosecrans Vic takes a look at Drakeo The Ruler's excellent 'Cold Devil.'
By    January 7, 2018

Rosecrans Vic is causing a ruckus.

On the morning of November 30th, 2017, inmate Darrell Caldwell strutted out of prison, slipped
on his dress-outs, tied his signature bandana around his head, and posed in between an ice-maker and vending machine—middle fingers up. He then posted a picture on his Instagram with the caption, “Time To Cause Hell.” After serving roughly ten months for six counts of unlawful possession of firearms by a felon, Drakeo The Ruler finally received his freedom

During Drakeo’s run, he’s played multiple roles in LA rap’s landscape. In 2014, he was the best kept secret in South Central’s hundred’s section. Although his buzz was limited to the confines of his hood, he struck gold with “Mr. Get Dough” featuring a young Ketchy The Great. It eventually caught the ear of Lemmie Lams, the-then A&R of DJ Mustard’s 10 Summers camp. 

Mustard gave Drakeo a 10 Summers chain, remixed the beat, removed Ketchy The Great, and added fellow 10 Summers artists RJ and Choice. Re-releasing it in April of 2015 on WorldStar,  Drakeo’s stock instantly rose with the endorsement of LA’s hottest producer, and many heralded him as the city’s next breakout star. After a 2016 fallout with Mustard, Drakeo revealed the depth of his resilience and talent with the excellent  I Am Mr. Mosely 2. Sans label or co-sign, the songs and slang alone allowed him to keep ascending into the ranks of LA’s best and most popular young rappers.  

The momentum theoretically should’ve stalled with his arrest last January. Instead, he managed to sneak a phone into jail and became even more of an outlaw folk hero: posting pictures of his newborn son, promoting his interview with LA Weekly about being imprisoned, marketing the Stinc Team’s new releases, and even going on Instagram Live and interacting with fans, not to mention his posts exhibiting the inordinate amount of snacks he accumulated in his cell, invariably captioned with his signature hashtag “its regular.” 

Tweeting “Free Drakeo” only to have him retweet you or comment back with an emoji is completely asinine when you think about it, but for Drakeo, it’s regular. The twenty-four year old is apathetic, has been institutionalized since he was twelve years old, and has a natural tendency to laugh at things that aren’t the least bit comical. He was famously pictured smirking at the bailiff during a court appearance with his county blues on and proceeded to make shirts out of them and create a campaign online to free himself. Drakeo feeds off negative energy.

Listening to a new Drakeo project means stepping into a new unfamiliar world. The language is foreign, the music is rebellious down to the way he opts to mutter into the mic instead of yelling like his rap counterparts. All the traditional rules of rap instantly go out the window. He typically opts to rhyme against the drum patterns instead of riding the beat. He usually chooses to start as soon the instrumental does, suffocating it with lyrics like “Bitch I am The Ruler, back splitter medula, Medusa, I stone him if he acting like he Judas, he stupid.” Drakeo’s flow is nerve wracking, like he’s driving on the wrong side of the road, narrowly avoiding head on collisions every few seconds just to arrive to his destination differently than everyone else. That’s what fuels him.

Created in roughly ten days, Cold Devil was released less than a month after his release from prison. If this is your first time listening to Drakeo, you might be initially put off by his unorthodox delivery; I too initially couldn’t grasp the fact that he was flouting traditional rules of rap. But extended listens reveal an originality that becomes as addictive as his habit of pouring four ounces into a sugary soft drink of his choice.

When he cross references songs throughout the project, it makes listeners feel like they’re in on an inside joke.  With  “Neiman and Marcus Don’t Even Know You,”  he mocks adversaries with the taunt that the employees at a high end Beverly Hills retailer are clueless to your identity because you can’t afford it. Later in the project, he raps about Benjamin and Franklin also having no recollection of your existence, as though they were actual people and not euphemisms for hundreds.

Almost every song ends with a rant that roasts adversaries. Whether the venom is directed towards many or a certain LA rapper he thought was talking slick while he was incarcerated, we can’t confirm, but it’s incredibly entertaining either way. The “Fools Gold” hook makes his motives clear: “these clown n****s give me new songs.”  

He follows it with “Pippy Long Stockin,” a comical allusion in itself that he’d name his extended clip rifle after a redheaded Swedish children’s character. It showcases that he can be as creative and weird as possible, but all his combatants deserve to be ridiculed. “Damn Daddy” features  his heir apparent OhGeesy of Shoreline Mafia, the east Hollywood collective whose music and lifestyle are admittedly heavily influenced by Drakeo and The Stinc Team. The sarcastic tone he uses while hollering “Damn Daddy” is the West Coast equivalent to when 50 Cent said “Damn homie, in high school you was the man homie.”

As the album progresses, you feel the journey taking you from a frigid cold-blooded climate back into reality. By contrast, other albums feel generic and filled with identical lingo, no matter which city or region they claim. Drakeo is the opposite of that corny clout world where rappers make moves based on statistics, have social media managers, do social media stunts like post bottles of lean but won’t sip them, pose with guns but won’t bust them, talk about going to jail but never been to one.

That same bizarre world where rappers buy foreign whips and don’t crash them, where they buy fake jewelry for likes. That strange digital landscape  where rappers collaborate with rappers they don’t like only to increase streaming numbers. Imagine becoming accustomed to that world, only to stumble upon a universe where a scornful brilliant Cold Devil thrives off setting himself apart from everything and everyone.