King L - Showtime
“It’s a war going on outside we ain’t safe from/ I feel the pain in my city wherever I go/ 314 soldiers died in Iraq, 509 died in Chicago” – Kanye West, “Murder to Excellence”
Chicago is one of many tough, tough cities in a country going through a tough, tough time. Conditions are no better in Oakland, Detroit, Flint, Memphis, Baltimore, or St. Louis, just to name a handful. One of my best friends just landed a job as an EMT driving an ambulance in Vallejo (for out-of-Californians, it’s where E-40’s from), prompting a friend to remark that it’s the most stable job in the Bay Area. Sadly, it is.
It’s only July, but Chicago has already seen more stabbings this year than all of 2011. Kids in the wrong parts of Chicago have limited options; in Biggie’s words, “Either you’re slinging crack rock or you got a wicked jump shot.” My homegirl DoJo, a teacher in the CHI, confirms that if getting a proper education isn’t your thing, it’s either those options or rapping.
King Louie, from the East Side’s Dro City neighborhood, knows how violent Chicago can get, evidenced by his tattoo in honor of murdered friend and rapper Pac Man. King L, along with Chief Keef, Rockie Fresh, and Lil’ Durk, is driving Chicago’s drill rap scene to national prominence. For the uninitiated, drill rap sounds nothing like the soulful stuff from Chicago that Kanye West and Common are known for. Think Waka Flocka Flame recorded in your mom’s basement. But, it’s rap that keeps them in the studio and off the corner, and that’s a tradeoff I’ll take 10 times out of 10.
Showtime, King L’s street album, is 22 tracks (too damn many!) of a loud, buckwild romp full of dope smoking, AK popping, girl pulling, and money getting. It’s standard rap fare for when you turn your brain off and drive home from work on Friday, thinking of the crunkness that awaits you on the weekend. I’m a sucker for songs that sample things I love, so Ray J’s infamous radio rant against Fabolous on “Money Team” and the 2 Chaaaaaaaainz sample on “All This Ice” carve out a special place in my heart for those tracks.
It’s little things like that make individual songs stand out amongst the repetition on Showtime. For most of the tracks, you could say that you’ve heard these songs before. Stretching limited subject matter over 22 songs creates a ton of filler, and not even the hottest rappers can pull it off (Rich Forever, anyone?). Cut this album in half and you’ve got something.
In talking with people about the drill scene, some would say that King L, Chief Keef, et al. are describing their environment and educating people on how crazy it is in Chicago right now. The West Coast rappers during the ‘90s did the same, describing crackheads and drive-bys to illustrate how bad Los Angeles is. Much like how Ice Cube’s “How to Survive in South Central” was a warning to outsiders to not come to L.A. without knowing what’s what, drill warns you to not fool around in the wrong Chicago neighborhood. It walks the line between education and glorification, but I don’t necessarily WANT to be educated when listening to gansta rap or drill. I just might want to hear about brick shipping without thinking of the social ramifications. Drill COULD become social commentary, if it wanted to. But for now, enjoy it for the trunk-rattling, dread-shaking party that it is.