Drakeo the Ruler is free. Jackie Lacey is gone. Los Angeles is on lockdown. Specific language is required for this strange moment.
There’s a lot to be said about a new full-length mixtape from Drakeo the Ruler.
It’s not his first drop of the year; that would be Thank You for Using GTL, a gutting and blistering collaboration with JoogSZN, delivered through a crackling prison phone line. The music is disarming and eerie, downright tragic if you sit with the idea that the hottest rapper in Los Angeles is relegated to recording on Inmate Telephone Systems — “The Power of Together” guys with decidedly shit audio and far shittier reasons for existing.
We Know the Truth is 18 new songs from an exhilarating wordsmith, finally reunited with his creative partners and equipped with his usual tools. One can only imagine how special and weird these studio sessions felt. A lot of these songs were incubating as echoes in Drakeo’s head while he sat in solitary confinement as a straight-up political prisoner.
If you’re not familiar with Drakeo’s story, well, sheeeeeeeeeeeeeesh, here we go. Born Darrell Caldwell, the South Central artist was arrested in January 2017 in connection to the murder of 24-year-old Davion Gregory out in Carson. Drakeo’s brother (Ralfy the Plug) and various members of Drakeo’s Stinc Team rap collective were arrested as well, for a variety of extremely dubious charges. JoogSZN, the beatmaker, was separately arrested on petty misdemeanor charges. From there, we have the typical police nonsense, placing wired snitches and recording devices in all the Stinc Team holding cells. The police investigation revealed that 17-year-old Rollin 40s Crip Jaidan Boyd — not Drakeo or any of his Stinc Team bandmates — was the shooter who killed Gregory. That should be the end to this, but it’s somehow very much not the end at all.
The Stinc Team — an established group of rappers — is then accused by the state of being a street gang. Cops use the song “Bully Breaker” to get Drakeo’s address, then use “Chunky Monkey” as a basis for warrants. The ringleader of this clownshow is Francis Hardiman, deputy sheriff of LA County. He used lyrics, videos, Instagram posts, and any other legal gymnastics he could to prosecute Drakeo by any means for a murder that the prosecution acknowledged he didn’t commit.
Drakeo was unanimously acquitted of the murder charge, while other members of the Stinc Team received criminal sentences only for unrelated offenses. Nevertheless Drakeo’s time in county lockup continued after the District Attorney and Deputy Hardiman refiled “gang conspiracy” charges against the artist. Under California Penal Code Section 186.22, all you need to be considered a street gang is 3+ people, a common name or identifying symbol, and members who individually or collectively engage in whatever the law calls “criminal activity.” To answer the obvious question, yes, the LA Sheriff’s Department would qualify under this definition.
So, yeah… a burgeoning star of the fabled LA rap scene was locked up for crimes that he had already been acquitted of just to prove a point. And, uh, point well taken — the very night after DA Jackie Lacey was voted out, the district attorney’s office offered Drakeo a plea deal for time served. It’s comically transparent and very sad, and Drakeo’s freedom now perpetually depends on who he takes pictures with and what words he uses on camera. He could be hauled back into the carceral system at a moment’s notice.
But for now, The Ruler is free. We Know the Truth, and we’ve known the whole damn time.
Context is everything, and all the music amplifies as this bizarre year concludes. Ground Game organizers are heading to City Hall. New DA George Gascón was voted in with an overwhelming electoral mandate for criminal justice reform. Meanwhile, reported COVID cases are still spiking, and our wet fishstick of a mayor is issuing incoherent stay-at-home orders while shilling for landlords on CNN and angling for a job in Washington. It’s all dumb, and the accompanying words are super dumb. Trying to describe what’s happening around us with cogency is an exercise in big dumb idiot dumbness.
It’s here where I suggest an alternative: let Drakeo tell it. He knows the truth, and he’s a stunningly original linguist that’s been deprived of a microphone. I personally am getting quite bored of other people’s words. The mayor’s words don’t make any sense when describing his lockdown order. The sheriff’s words make even less sense when describing why cops won’t testify about the murder of Andres Guardado. Nothing means anything anymore, and I’m formally deferring to the perverse language warping of Mr. Big Bank Uchies. Here are a few lines that make my head feel better.
“The D.A. wanna fight me at the trial cuz I beat him / all 12 jurors, not guilty, n**** beat it! / b*tch talkin’ bout’ “take me to Rome” when we at Caesars / after that I told her, “b*tch, we seein’ different people” / I just poured a 12 now I’m seeing different people / I just smoked a 2020 n**** with an e-cig”
“Play with these n****s? I don’t even play with Caiden / somebody hold my guns cuz they say I’m too famous”
“We keep fullys for bullies, chops for opps / thots on thots, we got knots on knots”
“Gang in this b*tch, that’s a group of three or more people / thang in this b*tch, I don’t even know these four people?”
“N****s talkin’ ‘bout “welcome home, you deserve this” / get the fuck up out my face with that nerd shit / bought the titties, it’s the Mardi Gras, pull back the curtains / swervin’ and splurgin’ with the cannon, I’m nervous / if the police get behind me ain’t nobody blurtin’ / it’s 200 on the dash, I’ma win, that’s for certain”
“Hundiddy hundiddy hundiddy bop bop / hundiddy bop bop, hundiddy bop bop”
“I came in with a stiffler, that Shanaynay and her sister riding Clifford, yеah, big dogggg / two watches on this Christmas toll, Rami make it glitter, I’ll takе some big dogggg”
“My Nina Ross profilin’, and she gon love you long time / roll bounce on my neck but I need more diamonds, I could f*ck the streets up without a cosign”
“Cold Devil, I’m icy hot / I do a n**** bad if the money good enough, but get up on the stand I did not / all a n**** heard was about 10 NOT GUILTYs / it’s hot but I still threw on my chinchilla / I did that to block out all that hate up in the wilderness”
“I just popped a Batman, I feel like Bill Clinton / the jury know I had the money from a still image / her baby dad from Arkansas but I still hit it”
“When I was in the county I ain’t even get a letter…nah, keep that same energy / I remember every single call that wasn’t accepted…nah, keep that same energy”
That hits right about now. Keep that same energy…sheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeesh indeed.