Baltimore MC Los has been through the fire and back on his journey to the top of the rap game. Now on his second deal with Bad Boy Records, the fire-spitting rhymer who made his name with a viral “A Milli” freestyle in 2008 is ready to claim hip hop’s throne with his new mixtape Becoming King.
Los kicks off his re-introduction to Bad Boy Records with a spoken word-style intro reflecting on the trials and tribulations of his struggle. As the beat builds from dramatic chords to frantic synths, he awkwardly transitions from a Wale-esque poetic flow to a mix of sing-songy southern flows and rapid-fire bars that showcase his diverse range of talents. “My haters love me, I built them n----,” he brags, sounding similar to Lil Wayne.
His versatility is a gift and a curse throughout the tape, as he proves his ability to master every style that is burning up airwaves right now but fails to establish any sound that is uniquely his own. Los’ identity as an artist gets lost in the shuffle of imitations and it becomes easier to point out the styles he borrowed from Drake, Big Sean, Kendrick Lamar and others than it is to define or identify with his struggle as a supremely talented MC who hasn't quite found his footing.
The features and production provide a creative boost throughout the tape. Pusha T and Yo Gotti lace him with fire guest verses on the Harry Fraud-produced "Dope." The stellar beat from Dot and Pro lays the groundwork for impressive showings from industry vets Ludacris and Diddy on standout track "Disappointed." "I work way too hard to let a b---h destroy it/Y’all n---s out here slippin’, I’m disappointed," spits Los’ mentor Diddy on the hook.
Still, appearances from Wiz Khalifa, Fantasia and Twista continue to obstruct the personalized touch the project needs. If Becoming King is supposed to be the story of the Baltimore MC’s rise to a higher position in the rap game, then the input of too many others only distorts the ruler’s true message. If the story must be told, then let's hear it from the man himself. On "Hard Life" we find him doing his best Kirko Bangz impression on a regrettable hook. Even the usually innovative Raheem Devaughn reverts to sounding like an R. Kelly-impersonator on the solid but unspectacular "Nightmares of Being Broke."
Los’ skills as a raw spitter save his artistic limitations on tracks like "Pay Up," which features enough quotables to warrant a few replays. "I love my n----s, they might f--k ya bummy rat/You know, Winnie with ya Pooh, we never bring ya honey back." The Sonny Digital-produced "OD" allows Los to bend his many flows into a catch track that would bang at both clubs and kickbacks.
"Damn you know you made it when haters payin’ you compliments," Los spits on "Love You Down." His belief that he’s made it may be limiting his creative potential and desire to push himself further as an artist. Los has undoubtedly put in the work necessary to prepare himself for his big debut, and his talents as a lyricist are undeniable. But with the rap game getting more flooded by the minute, the question remains whether he has the originality and star power to warrant the massive platform all of his hard work earned him.
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(Photo: Bad Boy Records)