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The Breakdown | King Von - Welcome To O Block

In recent years we have witnessed the UK having a major influence within the drill scene. The UK has created their own drill sound that has separated themselves from the original Chicago drill movement. This sound has influenced multiple countries across the world, from Australia, to Ireland and the U.S. Which has led to the birth of successful rappers such as Pop Smoke, Onefour, Digga D, Headie One and Sheff G. Nevertheless, the drill sound has been revived in its birth land, Chicago, mainly because of King Von, an artist from the notorious neighbourhood refer to as O'Block 64th.

On October 30th 2020, King Von released a great debut album called “Welcome to O’Block”. The title itself gives an idea of what the content of the album is going to be like. Gritty, violent, sadistic and aggressive. Those who are experts of the drill movement since 2010, should know how much of a major influence O’Block has played in shaping the drill scene worldwide. King Von mentions this in his introduction song referred to as “Armed and Dangerous”. He states;

“Back to this drill s***, Sosa started rapping now the war is going viral”

Sosa is another name for Chief Keef who is originally from O’Block and is considered the father of drill due to being the first successful artist amongst the genre.

In other respects, this album is great because of the coherent storytelling he delivers to his audience and the use of production that works well with the lyrics he provides. The production of the album stuck to its original Chicago drill sound rather than using the more recent, popular drill sound from the UK and Brooklyn. King Von used Chicago type drill instrumentals that have a similar sound to his fellow O’Block artist’s projects that were released in 2011/2012 such as Chief Keef ‘Back from the Dead’ and Fredo Santana ‘It’s A Scary Site’. Von’s instrumentals gives his album an overall gritty, sadistic, dark energetic sound, which works hand in hand with his lyrics as they too are supposed to reflect a gritty, sadistic, dark experience in his life as a criminal on O’Block. This allows the audience to paint a picture that accurately reflects what Von is saying. Furthermore, the use of production was important because sticking to the Chicago type drill instrumentals helps the audience to have a feeling of what type of energy they would get if they lived on O’Block, which is what the modern influenced UK drill beats cannot do as they were not made for the Chicago drill scene.

In terms of his lyrics, throughout ‘Welcome to O’Block’ King Von reflects on his violent lifestyle from continuing what he does best, storytelling. While listening to the album, King Von had several storytelling songs that reflected a different experience within his criminal lifestyle in relation to O’Block. However, the majority of these songs had one thing in common, which was the grittiness of the violent lifestyle he lived while growing up. Two storytelling songs that stood out for me was ‘Wayne’s Story’ and ‘Mad At You’. ‘Wayne’s Story’ gives a generalisation off what it is like to be a boy in O’Block surrounded by crime. He mentions in the song how Wayne had to result to violence in order to survive.

“We was on the block shooting’ dice, when some grown n***** just stole on ‘em he hopped up with that pole on ‘em, he ain't say nothing, he just blowed on em”

Later on in that song, King Von admits that the boy has built a sudden thirst for killing his enemies. The irony of this line is important because it connects to the majority of his other songs in the album before it. These other songs feature King Von making personal digs at his enemies in a threatening manner, practically glorifying the violence towards his enemies that makes his energy more abrasive, aggressive and loud. In addition these songs also show King Von having a thirst into wanting to still harm his enemies even after his success. For example in the song ‘Back Again’ he shows proudness to his enemies falling short to his violence.

“I done gave n***** whole head starts and still I hawked em down (boom, boom)”

Von also gains a thrill at mentioning his enemies decease.

"Krump was doing all that woofing, he ain't even make it”

Back to the reflection of ‘Wayne’s Story’, it is debatable that Von saw himself as Wayne, and parts of the song was influenced by Von’s own personal life.

‘Mad At You’, which is the other song previously mentioned stands out because it gives a different perspective of King Von’s thoughts as an artist. Von in this song breaks away from continuing to speak on violence towards his enemies and mainly focuses on his intimate relationship with his lover. This is something he has done in previous projects such as ‘Levon James’ with the song refer to as ‘Trust Issues’. On the contrary, ‘Mad At You’ differs as it puts King Von in a darker, vulnerable emotional state. Mainly because the lyrics are more based on King Von wallowing in self-pity. The song highlights Von wearing his heart on his sleeve for a woman he trust but he later finds out from his stance that she has stabbed him in the back for other men.

“Hell nah, we was on that jail call, you was texting, hell nah, you was f******, hell nah, you was touching, hell nah”

To further this point, the production of the instrumental assists with the lyrics of the song in setting a dark, miserable vibe for the audience to feel. As it was stated earlier, Von has made an attempt to make a song in an earlier project, which focused on intimacy with a woman. Nonetheless, the song wasn’t executed as well as ‘Mad At You’, due to these following reasons. Compared to ‘Mad At You’, it seemed like a generic intimate song in an attempt to be more versatile. The lyrics along with the production of the song lacked that vibe that allowed his audience to be connected with how he feels and what he’s thinking. Which differs with ‘Mad At You’. It can be stated that Von has matured as an artist due to being more comfortable in expressing his vulnerability about being intimate with a woman on a track. Having an understanding of what type of production he needs for the track, how to express more emotion within his lyrics and delivery. Moreover, it gives him the opportunity to break away from just being an angry typical, violent drill rapper and enables him to expand his target audience plus increase his fan base.

To conclude on this project, King Von successfully lived up to his album title ‘Welcome to O’Block’. Firstly he was able to do this with the production of the album, using Chicago type drill instrumentals. These instrumentals not only gave the feeling of being in Chicago but also assist the lyrical content of the album in providing a dark, sadistic energy of O’Block in reference to King Von’s life. In addition Von’s ability of being able to coherently story tell was evident in his track called ‘Wayne’s Story’. This track was not only able to show the generalisation of a boy living on O’Block but was able to connect to other songs from Von in the album that were personally reflecting Von’s lifestyle. In other words, it can be debatable that ‘Wayne’s Story’ was King Von reflecting on parts of his life under a different alias. Hence why the track had similar experiences to Von’s personal content in his album’s other songs. In regards to the song ‘Mad At You’, this track gives King Von the opportunity to break away from being just a typical drill rapper and expand on his content as well as his emotions. Due to him being able to focus on love, vulnerability and intimacy with a woman. Overall the album was able to successfully paint an image of King Von’s life in reference to his experience on living in O’Block.

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