We spoke to LA rapper Drakeo The Ruler about his new album, We Know the Truth, working with Drake, and more.
If LA was the Wild West, Drakeo the Ruler would be the outlaw whose voice never raises above a raspy whisper and whose visage is seen on Wanted Dead or Alive posters.
Drakeo is a victim of the corruption that has long been poisoning the Los Angeles criminal justice system. He has spent the last couple of years entangled in a complicated conspiracy case. In 2019, he was acquitted of murder and attempted murder charges, but the district attorney decided to refile gang-conspiracy and shooting from a motor vehicle charges stemming from an unrelated case in 2016. While incarcerated — and using only a GTL-powered prison phone —Drakeo recorded the 19-track project Thank You for Using GTL, with the assist from producer JoogSzn. The project is a harrowing glimpse of the mentality of a man fighting to win in a game that’s already been fixed for him to lose.
On November 4th, 2020, Drakeo was released from prison following a plea deal offered by the D.A. Following his release, it didn’t take long for Drakeo to hit the studio again — the first time in three years after recording his previous tape, the underground classic Cold Devil, on borrowed time. We Know the Truth was Drakeo’s moment to address the masses, from friend to enemy. It’s nearly impossible to ignore the disdain drenched in venom when he raps, “When I was in the county I ain’t even get a letter,” on the hook for “Energy,” one of the standouts from the tape. Or the moments of celebration on the opening lines of “20 Pieces,” flaunting the fact that he received a not-guilty charge from all 12 jurors in the D.A’s face. Drakeo raps as if he’s talking through you, keeping a chilling-composure that nearly freezes you at the end of every punchline.
The Truth Hurts, released last week, is the follow-up, a chance to revel in the spoils of his recent success. Drakeo takes a different direction than the previous confrontational effort in We Know the Truth. The production exchanges blood-thirst for LA club bangers and jewelry-flaunting anthems prepared to take over radio waves. Led by the Drake-assisted “Talk to Me,” The Truth Hurts is a celebration, the moment the door of stardom opened its doors for Drakeo and shined its heavenly gleam despite the PTSD and trauma that hangs over the album. It’s not all exhilaration, however. A week before the album’s release, tragic news struck when Drakeo’s close-friend, and member of his crew Stinc Team, Ketchy the Great had passed away in a car accident. Drakeo paid homage to Ketchy on the open-wound song “Long Live The Greatest.”
We recently spoke to Drakeo who talked about how he’s adjusted to being home, working with Drake, and the desire to avoid conflict.
What was it like getting back on your feet in an industry that changed so much recently?
Well, it was kind of weird. You get adjusted to it, but there’s a lot of stuff, that’s just weird. I don’t know. But since I had nothing to do, it was kind of easy, though. Ain’t got nothing to do without a studio.
On We Know the Truth you were pissed off at everybody. What went through your head while you were writing those songs?
A lot. There was so many people that had so much to say and all this stuff about me while I was in jail. I couldn’t do nothing, I couldn’t say nothing about it. So now, when I got out, it was just like, that’s it. I’m going to make sure nobody says anything when I get out. You remember all that shit. A lot of people didn’t think I was going to get out, so when I was writing all that shit, I was like, “Man, they better hope I never get out because when I get out, they are going to hate me.”
It was crazy. It went from people not really noticing who I was, not giving me the credit, and me going to jail, I can’t even do anything ‘cuz I’m in jail. When I got out it was crazy. I didn’t think it was going to be like this.
What would you say was the biggest challenge you faced coming back into the rap game?
Just understanding that this shit is fake. It’s not real. And to stop letting my emotions get into this shit. Trying not to let my emotions get the best of me, ‘cuz it’s not real. There might be a couple people in there, but it’s not real. Might be a couple genuine people, but this shit ain’t real.
Your content never changed even when the D.A. used your lyrics against you in court. What made you stick to your guns like that?
Because if I’m honest, I just knew that wasn’t nothing going to change if I changed it up or not. They still were going to do whatever. They had it out for me. That wasn’t going to change nothing.
Now on The Truth Hurts you sound like you’re celebrating throughout the songs. What kind of album did you seek out to make from the jump?
I wanted everybody to know, “I know the truth, and it hurts.” Now they seeing this. They seeing it, I got out, they already knew. Happy to congratulate me when I’m out. The truth hurts now I got Drake on stage and Don Toliver. Y’all can’t fuck with me, bro. I gave y’all your chance. Now it’s over with. Three years. Three years to do what they want. Didn’t go nowhere.
How has your mentality changed between releasing the two tapes?
I don’t do the same things. I try not to take these guys seriously because people’s careers are going down the drain and they’re taking shots at me. I ain’t trying to kill, man. I don’t want no followers or nobody. I don’t even understand these people.
You got a single with Drake now that’s going crazy. Did you ever plan to hit the mainstream like that?
Not the way I did it. Now my homie died, it’s kind of weird. Can’t really enjoy all this shit like I want to.
How did you and Drake connect?
They was telling me about something he wanted to do with me when I was in jail, but I’m like, “I don’t know.” So I didn’t really take him seriously. But then I ended up getting out so I DM’ed him and now we’re here.
We kind of have the same style; we both talk shit. It’s kind of easy. Can’t really explain. We just go together.
At the same time, since they’re so similar, what makes them different?
I mean, the words that they use. I guess their accents. They use different words than us.
The way you got two cities from two different states to come together to make a new wave in hip-hop, what makes it difficult for individuals in their own city to come together and squash the beef?
People don’t want to see other people pass them up. They don’t want other people taking their shot. They don’t want to see people who pass them up. They don’t like to see that. They pretend like they do, that’s what causes these gangs to go on each other, all that type of stuff. It is what it is.
I’ve heard your work on a project involving the new cats coming out of LA. right now. Are there any details you can give about that?
I gotta figure it out ‘cuz every week I have a new person that gets pumped up not to like me. I got to figure out who I am with all the people, all that breathing. Ain’t got nobody to push their limits.
How crucial is support from the fans?
It’s really crucial because, for me, I’ve been in jail three years and to still have my fans, hundreds of thousands of more fans is kind of crazy. Some people don’t get that love. Some people, three years go by and their career is over, but I got some loyal fans. So that’s important. I appreciate all my fans that believed in me, or whatever. That played a big part in keeping my head straight, knowing that I have fans out there to support me when I got out. When I got out, it was okay. It was real. Time to get back to it.”