The budding drill rapper was gunned down last night.
King Von was a special sort of talent.
Brandishing a unique flow and an uncanny ear for melody, the 26-year-old Chicago emcee had an unprecedented talent with the pen. Deeply embedded in the O Block gang life of Chicago at an early age, the reflective narratives of his music demanded our immediate attention.
On "Crazy Story," King Von's 2018 debut single, he weaves a synchronized tale of a robbery attempt gone sour, describing every step of the encounter with invigorating detail rarely seen in drill music. At one moment, he stalks his target from his car like "Snoop off The Wire" and slowly grabs his glock, only to become distracted by the thoughts of loss that regularly plague his mind.
"Can't be zonin' out," he tells himself to snap out of it. The track never allows us to exhale until its explosive finale and remains an all-consuming piece of writing.
His 2020 release, Welcome to O Block, barely a week old, was equally as captivating and harrowing a collection. In a packed genre where many rappers merely enter a booth and freestyle, Welcome to O Block was a transporting masterpiece.
As shown by the pacing of his "Crazy Story" series, he was a master of setting the scene and building tension; each song felt handpicked and whittled down for synchronicity like any great piece of writing.
As we mourn the loss of such a unique storyteller, here is a collection of deep cuts for the uninitiated that we believe the best showcase his god-given talent with the mic.
While much of Von's discography whips ahead with ferocity, "Trust Issues" is a rare moment of exhale. While many of his narratives follow Von in motion, "Trust Issues" finds Von alone at home with his thoughts late at night, waiting for his girlfriend to return home from god knows where. He croons every moment over fluid piano keys, his voice resonating in pain. "I thought you was real, I don't know now," he cries helplessly.
"Trust Issues" shows how Von's brain is always at work, always processing every emotion in real-time at lightspeed. His heightened sense of self makes for great storytelling, but when left alone with his thoughts, it is clearly all-consuming.
Over a loose and enthralling beat by legendary producer Mike WiLL-Made-IT, "Block" captures the immersive power of Von's unique flow. He strikes every move with kinetic finesse, biting each phrase with gruff, quippy ferocity, and leaving a space in between his phrases so they can ring out and truly be heard.
Thematically, Von describes his paranoia and his toxic love affair he has with street life. "I think that we need to stop," he says in a brief moment of reflection as he loads his Smith & Wesson, but the words aren't convincing enough.
Lil Durk and Von had always fit together like bread and butter, and while fans gravitated to "All These N*****," their chemistry is resoundingly tighter on "Down Me." Both emcees rap with an ice-cold precision and trade choppy bars as effortlessly as a handshake.
The 2:00 minute track is over in a heartbeat and moves mercilessly as Durk and Von merely tell a day in the life, both Durk and Von conveying their fast paced lifestyles. It was clear the bond between Durk and Von was something special, and every track they shared was laser-focused. It's heartbreaking to think that these moments are now few and far between.
Hitmaka's production on "Mine Too" gives Von plenty of space to experiment with his flow; as a result, the rapper bounces around with as much effervescence as soda water. He regularly switches up his flow, hitting different drops of the beat without breaking a sweat. "Mine Too" is an invigorating street anthem, as Von once again intersperses gang-related anecdotes with moments of candid reflection.
"I got the world on my shoulders, just wish my family was closer," he raps on the second verse. His momentum builds alongside his ego, and it all comes to a head with him claiming, "I run the city, they know it." The battle he has with his ego and his past life play out in real-time on "Mine Too," making it a truly exciting track filled with nonstop energy.
What It's Like
Throughout his career, Von had various stints in prison. On "What It's Like" he reflects on these moments with honest transparency so his fans can understand what it's like to be stuck inside a corrupt system. He talks about what it's like to lose an appeal, to face forty five to life at 25 years old, all while he watches officers joke around as if it's just another day at the office.
He describes the dread of waiting to see if a witness will appear on the stand and how it feels to wait in agony for a court date to come, all while his girlfriend sleeps around with his friends. "What It's Like" is a heartbreaking look at his experience inside a corrupt system that nearly ruined his life.
See Me Make It
"They don't wanna see me make it" Von sings out on "See Me Make It." "They think jail finna break me." The Levon James finale serves as Von's most transparent track, as he uses its brief two minutes to truly sit with himself.
Von dissects the cyclical nature of being stuck in the justice system, how he's always catching cases, how his lawyer is always telling him to just take the deal and serve more and more time behind bars. He intersperses these narratives with his own drama at home, how he can feel his constituents start to turn against him as music becomes a bigger part of his life. It's a haunting song that hits too close to home, considering the circumstances.
Ultimately, King Von's uncanny ability as a storyteller always came at the price of being caught in someone's crosshairs. He truly had to suffer and grind to find success, making his come-up story all the more inspiring and his untimely death all the more heartbreaking.