RIP King Von: O-Block’s Trusted Narrator
In a week that was meant to be celebratory, Chicago rapper King Von was tragically shot and killed on Friday, Nov. 6th. A week removed from the release of his long-awaited project Welcome To O Block. A project that marked the formal arrival of a new frontrunner of the next generation of drill rappers. The grim and realistic depiction of the streets he painted harbored the painful reality of the South Side Of Chicago and the patriotism of O-Block.
The allure of drill music is heavily based on the production style founded by Young Chop. The anarchic drums mirror the nihilistic and violent lyrical content, even if it’s delivered through the garbled speech of Chief Keef, vocoder-filtered melodies of Lil Durk or the aggressive and direct bars of G Herbo. Von had bits and pieces of each woven into his musical DNA.
“It’s my shit, you see what I’m sayin’? Like, the drill sh*t,” Von told Akademiks in one of his final interviews. “When [drill] started, they was rappin’ about — that’s how we was livin’. That’s how we comin’. That’s how we grew up. You know, Sosa, he the same. That’s my brother and shit. We the same. Grew up the same. Same place. So, that sh*t — the drill shit, that’s us.”
His impeccable storytelling was urgent and rattled through 808s with a vengeance and uncut authenticity. “Crazy Story” created the buzz, but it was his subsequent efforts that cemented him as one of drill’s great storytellers.
Back in August, King Von performed a Live Piano Medley for AudioMack’s FineTuned series. With Chopsquad DJ serving as the pianist, Von delivered stripped-down renditions of “Why He Told” and “Took Her To The O.” His technical prowess and vivid details took two songs deeply rooted in his Chicago upbringing and transformed them into emotionally-potent offerings delving deeper into Von’s volatile world.
“Why He Told” is an emotional plea rooted in distrust and betrayal. On the studio release, Von’s voice is coated by aggression. The rasp in his voice barks through the anguish of witnessing a family member turn. His voice cracks in the live version, and with each bar, it’s as if he’s re-living these very excruciating moments. The technicality in his delivery doesn’t fade but the hostility in his tone slowly shifts as the reality dawns that someone he once called family is now a stranger.
“That n***a lied to me in my face/ Don’t know what he on no mo’/ I even asked him if it’s true, he said, ‘Nah, lil’ bro,’/ Bitch, what you lyin’ fo?/ You had me cryin’, bro/ Could’ve done that time, bro,” he raps as his intensity bubbles. “Now we ain’t talkin’ now/ He don’t even call my phone no mo’/ ‘Cause there’s nothin’ to talk about,” he continues as he reels back with apathy. “I don’t even wanna drill no mo’.”
The immediacy that came with King Von’s music made him one of the most refreshing new voices in drill. It was not only present in the way he was writing his music but the conviction with which he’d narrate it. The vigor in his tone made him invincible on wax. His storytelling ability made him a meticulous auteur. Nearly a decade after Chief Keef put the limelight on O-Block, King Von was among those carrying the torch into the 2020s. His storytelling and narration were as cinematic as the music videos that conveyed these street tales. Von was one-of-one, on pace to inscribe his name into the pantheon of drill artists. Though his life was taken away too soon, fans and friends will forever remember the impact he made on them.
RIP King Von. August 9, 1994 – November 6, 2020.