by Santino Torres / Staff Reporter
Chicago rapper King Von released his debut album “Welcome to O Block” on Oct. 30. The album debuted at #13 on the Billboard 200. Unfortunately, just one week later, Von was killed outside the Monaco Hookah Lounge in Atlanta. After his passing, the album moved up eight spots, peaking at #5 on the Billboard 200. Fellow rapper Pop Smoke also charted in the top five, which is led by Ariana Grande’s “Positions.” (See Andrea Lee’s article)
“Welcome to O Block” is led by Billboard Hot 100 hit singles “All These ——” featuring rap superstar Lil Durk and “The Code”, which features fellow Chicago rapper Polo G and has currently peaked at #66 on the Hot 100. The music video for “All These ——”, which was released three months ago, has garnered more than 32 million views on YouTube. Here, Von emphasizes his savagery against his rivals and people he perceives as fake. The track is aided by Durk and his superstardom, who discredits rivals by questioning their status in their neighborhoods.
Von uses the chorus in “The Code” to salute a friend who listened to him and chose to “just stick to the code” by indicating he took a prison sentence from authorities while remaining silent on “what they know.” Von also solidifies his status as an icon in his neighborhood, while Polo G uses the first verse to describe consequences for internet gangsters, the savagery of himself and his team against rivals and putting his neighborhood on his back.
Von had also released music videos for the songs “Why He Told”, “I Am What I Am”, and “How It Go”, with the three videos collecting a combined 33 million views. “Why He Told” expresses Von’s frustrations upon learning of former friend Michael Wade’s cooperation with authorities over a murder that Von has since been proven innocent for. “How It Go” describes consequences for landing in jail, speaking on his thought process which expressed concern over his friends, his girlfriend and the dangers that exist behind bars. The vibrant storytelling that Von has been praised for is on display here, as he explains having to decide between getting his life back together and his need to redeem his self-respect against a former friend who had betrayed him by seeing a girlfriend of Von’s during his stint in the big house.
Most of the context in the album addresses some of the same subject matter, which is not unusual amongst most drill music albums. Tracks like “GTA”, “Mine Too”, “Can’t Relate”, and “I Am What I Am” tackles topics such as growing up in his Parkway Gardens neighborhood, his apparent need for a weapon at all times, his disdain for his rivals, the subsequent beef and saluting all of his fallen friends. Additionally, “I Am What I Am” has grown increasingly popular for a line that references the consequences and the actions his friends will partake in when he passes away, saying, “If I should die, I’m boosting the murder rate, my [expletive] gon’ slide everyday, he been talking that [expletive] I can’t wait.”
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the album came in the form of “Mad At You” which featured Chicago singer Dreezy of “Body” fame. The song was allegedly directed at his girlfriend, Dallas-based rapper Asian Da Brat (formerly known as Asian Doll) who Von accused of cheating earlier this year, especially during his time behind bars. Dreezy, who rapped on the track, came across as very clever with some unique wordplay and her context gave the song a true love story in the hood feel, using the bars to prove who really got played out of a real one and providing a reality check over loyalty and honor.
The album, in which most tracks were produced by ChopsquadDJ, proved to be King Von’s best project in his short-lived career. It was an album he truly made for his fans, for fans of drill music and, most importantly, his neighborhood. Despite unfavorable content in his lyrics, which prove more semi-controversial than most of his mainstream counterparts in hip-hop and rap, Von’s lyrics are hard-hitting and descriptive of the lifestyle he chose to embark on up until his untimely passing in early November.
The uniqueness of the album stems from the fact his lifestyle, along with the choices he had made in his life and in these songs, are unusual to the mainstream public, as they venture into a world they could never be a part of by listening to this album. The dangers of his lifestyle are detailed and graphic, ranging from topics such as pursuit and disdain for his rivals, hardships endured behind bars, trust and loyalty among his partners and his girlfriends and the short shelf life of people he presumes to be fake. King Von truly did this project for his neighborhood, which he loved right up until his death. This album is certainly an ode to the Parkway Gardens area, which Von went hard for right until the very end, as it was said his alleged last words shouted out the neighborhood as he addressed it by its more common name in the streets, “O Block forever.”
8 out of 10 torches