King Los, the Los Angeles-via-Baltimore rapper, made headlines last week when he announced he and his label home, Sean "Diddy" Combs' Bad Boy Records, had separated.
"It's like LeBron without a team," Shade 45 host Sway Calloway said before introducing "one of the hottest in the game right now." He added, "King Los is officially a free agent."
"Poundcake Freestyle," a lyrical exercise from Los' new mixtape ("Zero Gravity II," released today), proves diluted mic skills were not the problem:
I got that Edgar Allan Poe flow,
Bars like a bear trap,
Shakespeare's only rebuttal would be a head-scratch,
I haven't been amateur ever, never
Iambic pentameter, clever
Better, nobody even seems this deep
I got n—s stayin' awoke to put my dreams to sleep
In the rap world, we treat the end of a partnership like a WWE rift: Was someone double-crossed? Was there jealousy among increasingly eager talent? Was a deep, dark secret revealed?
While those theories make for tantalizing MediaTakeOut headlines, chances are Los realized artists with fewer natural gifts — French Montana, Machine Gun Kelly, Cassie and even Diddy himself — are likely to have their releases properly pushed before his. His separation, and thus liberation, seems like a practical business decision for a 32-year-old rapper who has watched younger MCs pass him on the totem pole.
For whatever reason — politics, buzz or something else — we would have likely heard about French Montana and MGK's sophomore albums before even detecting whispers of Los' debut. If Los decided to ultimately bet on his skills and potential star-power rather than ghostwrite for his boss or play fifth fiddle on an uneven label, then more power to him. This is all speculation, but the truth is out there, and chances are, we will never know it completely.
What we do know is Los, once again, is a rapper without a deal. (Call it deja vu, as Los first signed with Bad Boy in 2005, was released in 2008 and eventually returned in 2012.) And while Los' abilities on the microphone are undeniable, he has yet to put together a single or project with buzz to match the skills.
"Play Too Rough," produced by longtime collaborator and fellow Baltimorean J. Oliver, is the first single from "Zero Gravity II." The track has a slight Eminem bent, forgoing bright pop sounds in favor of an uncomplicated and dank backdrop that doesn't cloud Los' wordplay. It's not a bad move: Los is here to uphold the classic image of an MC, the guy who studies the dictionary to find new ways to make rhymes slicker. Those types of MCs can and have thrived in today's rap landscape (Kendrick Lamar is the most obvious example, while Tech N9ne is a dazzling outlier making a healthy living touring hip-hop's underground circuits), but predicting who makes it and who doesn't is a blindfolded crapshoot.
For now, Los has returned to the independent grind, with more fans and greater awareness of his music than ever before. This spring, Los will open for "Show Me" rapper Kid Ink and his My Own Lane Tour. (The tour stops at the Fillmore Silver Spring on April 18.) After returning from the road in June, Los will turn his attention to finding a new label. Will it be better than his Bad Boy situation? Time will tell, but Los is clearly counting on it.
Download "Zero Gravity II" for free here.