Posthumous albums are complicated. It has been nearly a year since Darrell Caldwell b/k/a Drakeo the Ruler was fatally stabbed at a music festival in Los Angeles. Drakeo had been known to release multiple albums in a year before his demise, something I attributed to both his growing popularity and his desire to make up for time lost while incarcerated. While I wasn’t a huge fan of Drakeo’s rap style, I +was+ a fan of his non-stop hustle. I respect anyone who can build up a fan base independently and then bank off it as a career. If he was alive today I’d be saying the exact same thing. Game respects game.

“Gene Simmons, John Lennon playin, I’m a rock star
XD .40, Springfield, and it’s compact”

Rae Sremmurd popularized being “Black Beatles” years ago, but it’s still eerie to hear Drakeo compare himself to “John Lennon” on the almost ironically titled “Keep the Truth Alive.” That’s one of the things that makes posthumous albums messy. Biggie said “You’re Nobody (Til Somebody Kills You)” and was shot dead before the public heard his song on “Life After Death.” It’s not like everyone suddenly turned into Nostradamus. Predicting your own demise is a sadly actuarial act. Young black men know their own mortality, and being a successful rapper is not an escape from death. If anything it could be argued to accelerate the car head long into the brick wall, having removed the seat belts and disabled the airbags first. When you get famous people are more than happy to stick you for your jewels and not care if you live to talk about it later.

“Hang with the opps, you’ll get slayed with the opps
I’m the reason e’rybody got K’s on the block”

It’s also a bit twisted knowing the prolific Drakeo isn’t here to give us more updated material. “It’s 2021 and niggaz still broke” quips Caldwell on “Hang With the Opps.” He released the music video before his death, but “Keep the Truth Alive” just came out this month, so there’s no way to avoid it being dated now. That’s another messy fact about posthumous albums though. The songs might be recorded last year or over a decade ago. Unless the rapper actually says the year in the song you might have no way of knowing just how old the source material is. Studio wizardry has made it possible to make anything old sound new. That’s still more appealing than the idea of posthumous OpenAI rap albums, but I feel like that’s not a matter of IF but WHEN. It will happen.

So here’s Drakeo the Ruler with a new posthumous album and an all-too familiar discussion about it. On “3Ks” he says “I can do a song with whoever I want/I’m from L.A. so I stay with a gun.” The second part of that quote may have been simple boasting or exaggeration, but if literal it didn’t stop him from being stuck with a blade. The first half of that quote will be more true than he ever intended. Drakeo’s catalogue will be licensed out by every stakeholder in his intellectual property. Look forward to a slew of Drakeo the Ruler features, regardless of whether or not they are people he would have worked with while alive. If you want to know who he fucked with look to duets like “Stop Me” featuring Ralfy The Plug. This is your last chance to see what Drakeo intended while alive and who he wanted to reach down and pull up to his level.

One thing that’s potentially sus about “Keep the Truth Alive” is padding out the number of tracks with 11 second outtakes like “Won’t Be Doing That.” It’s not a song and it’s not even a skit. It just sounds like someone left the mic on in the recording booth and decided to keep the audio. That’s not really worthy of inclusion, but short snippets like that pad the length out to 18 tracks and 38 minutes. Take out everything under a minute and that’s 14 tracks.

It might be more egregious though to pad “Extortion” out to nearly six minutes long. The song has nearly three minutes of ad libs and shit talking over the Thank You Fizzle & Al B Smoov production. I can’t say it isn’t what Drakeo intended because it sounds like it was done in one take and left as recorded, but it would be more accurate to split it in half and call it a three minute song and a three minute skit. He’s not around to make those decisions though so it is what it is. That’s the messiest part of a posthumous rap album. You want to be respectful to the deceased in every possible way, but heaping false praise on someone because they’re deceased is disrespectful in its own way.

Drakeo the Ruler had flaws. Over the time I’ve reviewed his work I’ve become accustomed to his raspy delivery, perhaps to the point I now find it tolerable, but there’s no doubt a first time listener might think Drakeo’s grandpa was rapping instead of him. I say that with all respect due because it’s the truth and I care enough about him to not sugarcoat it. For the cult following he had built his unique delivery hit just right. I also say with respect that “Keep the Truth Alive” is exactly the kind of album he would make today if he was still alive. Drakeo rapped about three things on almost every song — how real he was, how many guns he had, and how much money he makes. He gave his fans what they wanted even if it seems monotonous to a critic. None of that matters. Black lives matter. Not the movement, not the hash tag — the truth IS that Drakeo should be alive today. That’s what matters.

Drakeo the Ruler :: Keep the Truth Alive
6Overall Score