The Truth Is Undisputed: Understanding the Greatness of Drakeo The Ruler

William Reed explains why Drakeo the Ruler is one of the greatest and most influential artists of all-time. Long Live the Truth.
By    May 20, 2024

Image via Drakeo The Ruler/Instagram

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Stop playing with William Reed.

I first discovered Drakeo through an ex-girlfriend from Inglewood. I was 18 and doing my best to navigate life after taking a blind leap of faith to attend a university in Arizona, a state on the opposite side of the country that I hadn’t even visited. Being new to the west, I used my own love of music to familiarize myself with a vastly different regional culture.

Being from Maryland, I had always viewed California culture as dated and corny. The East Coast and South determined pop culture for generations, and the way that West Coast students on my campus dressed from 2014-2018 made me cringe. I never liked Baby Boy, and the only song from the West I had in rotation was “Those Gurlz “by Snoop – and even then, only on good weather days with food on the grill.

At this time, I was dating a woman from Inglewood and naturally wanted to learn more about her upbringing and culture. She proceeded to expose me to all of the worst trends by way of LA: jerkin’, colorful fro-hawks, long socks pulled up to the knee with shorts, and what I considered awful house party music. California’s obsession with gangbanging was also something I scoffed at. If I’d grown up in LA I’d have been trying to become a movie star or looking for ways to date famous women, not gangbang, but to each his own.

This was around the time that “Mr. Get Dough” gained traction in LA. For the life of me, I couldn’t bring myself to understand what a “joint” was, and why Drakeo kept calling himself that in the hook. My ex first played this song during a car ride to me, and it seemed like yet another example of how far behind the west remained in making listenable street rap. For music relationship purposes, I have to keep my opinion of DJ Mustard’s beats off the internet, but I wasn’t impressed.

I didn’t give “Mr. Get Dough” a second thought because of the amount of bad local music that my ex played for me, I just wrote Drakeo off as yet another terrible California rapper. In 2015, Atlanta rappers like Young Thug and Rich Homie Quan were dropping classics seemingly every week. While DC’s hometown hero Shy Glizzy was encouraging interracial relationships throughout the DMV with “White Girl.” I had no interest in this bullshit-ass rap music about sidekicks and fades in the country jail. But in all fairness, being a producer and artist manager, my taste in music is closely to wannabe and actual music executives. I was more focused on honesty back then and I hadn’t yet started doing A&R work.

I didn’t see the vision until I started binging No Jumper interviews a few weeks later. It was only then that I recognized how important Drakeo was to the West Coast. In his first appearance on the podcast, Drakeo kicked it off by using a diamond tester to solidify the legitimacy of the diamonds around his neck. Nothing but braggadocious, borderline arrogance followed. I loved every second of it. Hilarious quotables were born from said interview: “(the police) ran in my condo and found a bunch of prop guns”, or “moving around different places, …trying to find Mei Ling, we (were) battling over custody” or “maybe it’s Maybelline, maybe I made the lean.”

The confidence and humor exuded distracted me from the fact that Drakeo’s actual music career was hardly discussed. The absence led me to go even deeper into the music. Midway through the interview, I clicked away to search for his YouTube channel and spent the remainder of the night listening to “Big Banc Uchies” on repeat in my ex’s living room. The laidback but menacing flow spit over one of the darkest and most current West Coast-sounding beats I’d ever heard now sounded refreshing. At first I didn’t understand the lingo. I spent all night trying to figure out what “Flu Flamming” was and went down the rabbit hole of rappers from the west and their alleged relationship with breaking and entering. The Ruler making me think about his bars and compelling me enough to do further research on his subject matter was enough for me: Drakeo won me over.

My obsession with “Big Banc Uchies,” one of the best intro songs ever recorded, turned into an obsession with Cold Devil, one of the best mixtapes ever recorded. Drakeo quickly became a regular part of my everyday life. The Ruler was the soundtrack to every workout, every long car ride, and moment of reflection. I jumped at any opportunity to share this incredible body of work with my East Coast friends. I began educating my friends on what “Flu Flamming” is and explained the significance of Mae Ling and Su Young, which they found hilarious once they understood.

In Mr. Mosely’s multi-verse, I laughed at the absurdity of the first four bars of “Red Tape, Yellow Tape.” I suddenly felt inferior for not owning a single article of clothing from Neiman Marcus. And, of course, Drakeo became the soundtrack of my first trip to said establishment. Drakeo’s music also introduced me to other canonical LA rappers from the time like 03 Greedo and Shoreline Mafia – an entire new wave of West Coast music that someone from the East Coast could enjoy, but more so really understand. To me, West Coast music was only about jerking, ratchet house party music, or county jail fades and gangbanging shit I just didn’t care about (and didn’t know anything about other than what we already knew from the 90s.) I never liked classic cars or lowriders. I need my rap music to reflect my reality, goals, and just provide a fly backdrop to my everyday life. My musical taste should aid in my overall flyness, not hinder it. Up until this point, West Coast music wasn’t digestible.

But just as quickly as I became a Drakeo fan, his freedom was temporarily stolen from him by the LAPD. I was forced to wait three years for new music while he beat life twice on bogus murder and conspiracy charges. It felt like a lifetime. As shameful and harmful to the Black community it is to admit, I found myself adhering to the oh-so-common paradigm: for me, his incarceration only strengthened the sense of authenticity that existed in his music. He had lived his raps, which made me a bigger fan, one who eagerly awaited The Ruler to emerge victorious against the LAPD and the DA. The whole saga seemed like an obvious attempt to stall an up-and-coming rapper from realizing their true potential and amassing well-deserved wealth.

It was little surprise that after a Sunday front page Calendar article was published in the LA Times about Drakeo’s ascendance, murder charges were filed against him. For fans of the Stinc Team, the Free Drakeo campaign was in full effect. And while circumstances were dire, and the consequences of a guilty verdict could potentially mean life in prison, to the public, he seemed to never crack under pressure. Drakeo would still tweet hilarious messages out to his fans and somehow found a way to drop an entire mixtape recorded from behind bars.

When Thank You For Using GTL dropped, I initially hated the fact that the first new Drakeo project we received in years was recorded over a jail phone. And I hated the audio quality of the mixtape but this was all we had at the time, and the songs still banged. Over time, I eventually grew to love it. Thank You For Using GTL became not only the best musical body of work ever recorded over a jail phone, but yet another display of Drakeo’s unwavering confidence.

As if I couldn’t applaud the man more, he released a mixtape from jail with the first two bars of the first song declaring “It’ll be a bloody war when the Crips with me.” The outro of the song cockily stated, “come on bro let’s hurry up, I don’t have all day.” All this while being an incarcerated man recording music over a jail phone; a hilarious, yet swaggering sentiment. This was clearly a slap in the face of the DA, making a mockery of the charges filed against him and the Stinc Team. Bonus points: this project was better than anything released in LA at the time. Drakeo could do no wrong to me at this point, and I eagerly awaited his freedom.

To this day, nothing in music has made me more excited than the release of Drakeo from jail. I remember the excitement of constantly updating Jeff Weiss’ Twitter feed to receive more information about the Stinc Team’s release. I remember turning on post notifications for both Drakeo’s Twitter and Instagram, impatiently awaiting his first hilarious statements upon his release, the first of many Instagram live rants he would surely go on. What was he going to say? How would his new music sound? When will we be getting new music? I know these questions are selfish to ask of someone who wrongfully spent three years of his life imprisoned, but my sentiments were still the same as every other Drakeo fan. We needed new music ASAP!

By 2020, my life was in a whirlwind. I graduated from University in 2018, and relocated to Detroit, Michigan to produce music for Danny Brown’s Bruiser Brigade. Along the way, I produced several bodies of work for Archibald Slim, and stumbled into a management career with my first client being the Midwest production king, Rocaine. Things were moving fast and I had to relocate from the DMV back to Phoenix to be closer to the music industry in L.A. By October 2020, I was commuting there every weekend to network and take label meetings. My ex and I had broken up but we still kept in touch. It was an exciting time in my life.

Within two weeks of his release, Drakeo delivered his first post-jail body of work. Unlike other rappers who were freed around that same time, Drakeo only seemed to have gotten better at rapping while away. We Know The Truth was the only album I listened to for the first two months of its release. This was the soundtrack to the exciting and new experiences of my life. His rap flow not only sounded more seasoned, but his lyrical content was funnier and far more menacing and ego-driven – unlike any other body of work I’ve ever heard. “Fights Don’t Matter” became an instant classic. For the first video Drakeo dropped after jail to be named “Fights Don’t Matter” paints the picture of, “yea whatever happened in jail is only in jail, now I have guns and we won’t be doing any fighting”, which is pretty much exactly the American climate at the time regarding guns. Drakeo was back up where he belonged. I was satisfied and so engulfed in the music, and all was well, though for some reason when I went to go visit my ex while in LA, she would get mad at me for playing Drakeo in the car.

Classic records like “Fights Don’t Matter” introduced the world to Paisa Dancing. He beat the opposition with Neiman Marcus store bags, and provided a mantra for anyone who ever lost a fight and lived to see another day. “Stop Playing Wit That Man” supplied an anthem for those who need a confidence boost at any point in their life, Drakeo selflessly gave his life away all for the love of music and left behind hundreds of classic records for the fans to appreciate for years to come.

With rap, especially street rap, there’s a fair level of WWE-type antics that surrounds the music. Most of the time, it’s not that serious, but in Drakeo’s particular case, his issues with various sets in the region and the LAPD were extremely dire. He was clearly a marked man. I didn’t care. I just wanted Drakeo to continue dropping music. His instagram live rants were hilarious and I thought he was too famous for anything to really happen to him.

It wasn’t until Drakeo released “Ingleweird” that I took a moment to reflect on the gravity of the situation. I remember calling my ex from Inglewood for confirmation of how serious things were for Drakeo in the city. She quickly confirmed that she had long stopped being a fan of Drakeo’s music. She also confirmed that the city of Inglewood was not a safe place for The Stinc Team. As a fan of the music, I often found myself considering my role in all of the rap drama. I was entertained by Drakeo constantly disrespecting his opps because the music was undeniably good, but I didn’t ever take time to think of the consequences to these actions. Should I have felt so entertained by the very real and serious issues surrounding my favorite rapper? Was it ethical to virtually egg on situations with my support for Drakeo? These are things I never thought about at the time. Maybe it was the foolishness of young age, maybe it was the selfishness of wanting new music, but I knew that I should not find joy in any of what was happening.

As soon as it seemed like I had arrived at this epiphany, Drakeo was murdered at the Once Upon a Time in Los Angeles festival. I remember being out with Rocaine and my business partner Lenny in Phoenix, having an otherwise fun night of celebration until being bombarded with texts from friends telling me that Drakeo had been stabbed. His rivals had set him up, local law enforcement stood by as he was killed and didn’t arrest a single assailant. The Ruler had seemingly been silenced once and for all.

While some may remain reserved in their praise for political reasons, Drakeo’s impact will live on for generations. He mudwalked through Neiman’s so California could run. The Flu Flamming champion of the world snuck sticks into the club with over 300 thousand dollars worth of diamonds dancing around his neck to save the West Coast from the platitudinous culture of dickie suits, lowriders, and banging on wax. When West Coast street rap desperately needed a new musical savior, Drakeo delivered masterfully. From “Mr. Get Dough” to his posthumous release Keep The Truth Alive, Drakeo gave the world a ghetto lean-induced sermon in confidence, style, creativity, dark humor, and originality – all while effortlessly weaving through the pressures of being a marked man, or as he would put it, “running from Shootin’ Newton.”

Even though he isn’t with us in the physical form, Drakeo could never truly be silenced. Recently, Kendrick Lamar borrowed the iconic Drakeo flow and lingo for his #1 song, Not Like Us, a both scathing and hilarious diss song towards Drake, reminiscent of Drakeo’s diss songs towards his rivals. Lamar raps, “Deebo any rap nigga, he a free throw”, an obvious nod to Drakeo, as well as borrowing the Mr. Get Dough flow for the first verse. Nas gave Drakeo a shout out on the Grammy Nominated Hit Boy produced song, “Hood2Hood.” Even Drakeo’s opps are foreign whip crashing in their music. By December of this year, Drakeo will have been deceased for three years, but his influence forever lives in the music, attitude, and culture of modern rap.

Nowadays, I find myself watching his recorded lives that were uploaded to YouTube and listening to snippets that may never be released and cherishing the little time he shared with us on earth through his music and videos. Drakeo’s career was a triumphant tale of courage and swagger cut far too short. But he left behind the imperative for us to keep the truth alive and that feels like the rightful way to honor his legend. Long Live the Ruler. Gone but everywhere you look.

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