King Los was on the precipice of what seemed like a massive career, armed with both talent and a hip-hop mogul by his side, in the mid-2010s. We break down what's happened since then.
There’s no way to overstate the role that dumb luck can often play in ascending to the top of the rap game. Right place, right time, and right entourage, can all be crucial in elevation or lack thereof. This trade-off between talent and the extenuating factors that govern one's journey to success means that, where some fairly uninspiring prospects have risen to the top, there are many high-caliber voices that have found themselves unable to transfer their potential into a prolific career.
Possessing a near-unparalleled command of language and a breathtaking freestyle game, Baltimore’s Los-- now self-anointed as King Los-- appeared to have all of the raw materials required to etch his name into the pantheon of the greats when he first debuted.
A student of the genre ever since he found solace in writing rhymes at age 18, the young Carlos Coleman honed his craft with the sort of meticulousness that’s now an afterthought for the overwhelming majority of modern artists. Highly-favoured among hip-hop fans that still covet the art of MC’ing, Los has boomeranged from periods of prominence to obscurity and back again throughout his career, but one universal truth remains-- if hip-hop was a meritocracy based on rhyming, the 40-year-old would be an icon by now.
The Lyrical Mindset
As many a battle rapper would attest, lyrical acumen doesn't always translate well into marketability or mainstream exposure; it often takes a lot more than that to make it big. However, Los did not only have the skills, he had the address book and major label budget to match. It's perhaps this fact, that makes Los’ fate all the more bewildering.
Touted as one of the future greats by former label boss Diddy, Los' prestige as a lyricist and artist on the precipice of widespread fame meant that the collabs on his mixtapes surpassed what some rising rappers often get on their debut major label releases.
Having acquired sought-after features from Rick Ross, DMX, Chris Brown, Jazze Pha and Twista as an independent artist on tapes such as The Crown Ain’t Safe, the introduction of endless financial resources into the equation made it seem as though success was a foregone conclusion. Saluted by Kendrick as the man who’d provided the most compelling response to “Control” and lauded as a better lyricist than Dot by Lupe Fiasco, all the building blocks appeared to be in place.
But somehow, someway, the stars never aligned for a rapper who could comfortably make devour any beat and deliver profound rhymes with ease. Instead, King Los has had several rebirths that have ultimately led to him occupying the same space in the game for almost his entire career.
Signing With Diddy's Bad Boy Label Twice
King Los first hit Diddy’s radar when he auditioned for the second series of Making The Band, but then refused to sign the paperwork that’d secure his place. A young Los was signed by Diddy way back in 2006, after the Baltimore MC blew the Bad Boy impresario away with a flawless marathon of a freestyle. "I did a 10-minute freestyle that’s actually legendary. It’s been viewed probably a couple million times by this point. I did a 10-minute freestyle and he signed me off of that 10-minute freestyle. This was in 2006," Los revealed back in 2014 when detailing where his first deal with Diddy went sour. "But what happened was, coming from Baltimore, I was surrounded by people that I was doing an indie label with, before the Bad Boy deal, and they were connected to the streets. So by the time I got my record deal, things came full circle and kinda caught up with them and I ended up losing my deal due to some street stuff."
Los freestyles for 10 minutes straight for Diddy
Suddenly cast out into the cold, Los soon found himself back in Baltimore and received his first taste of the setbacks that can be hurled your way in the rap game. Going from, as he told Ebro in 2014, "on the verge of being that dude," back to the lower rungs of the game. Los’ drive proved too unquenchable for him to simply accept his fate and within a few years, he was eventually granted a rare second chance when Diddy came calling again, this time in October of 2012.
Described by Puff as one cog in "a whole new movement" for the Bad Boy label, alongside labelmates MGK, Red Cafe and French Montana, the release of 2013’s Becoming King mixtape suggested that the coronation was imminent. Composed of all new beats from esteemed producers such as Harry Fraud and Sonny Digital, alongside a plethora of guest stars, the record felt like a real step forward towards the stature that Los had always threatened to assume.
King Los with Red Cafe and Diddy at a Miami club, 2012 - Vallery Jean/WireImage/Getty Images
Coupled with the acclaim that Becoming King received, Los’ profile was further developed in that same year by his feature on French Montana’s "Ocho Cinco" and a star-making turn on Kid Ink’s "No Option."
Yet even when it seemed as though he was getting out of the starting blocks, Los was candid about the issues he’d had with impressing his mentor.
"Puff kind of had an effect on the way I make music, because he is very critical and it made me just want to step my game up," he informed AllHipHop. "It’s not easy to play a record for him and he be, like, thoroughly impressed. It’s a gamble any time you play a record for him you might be totally in love with the record and he be like [blank stare]."
Parting Ways with Bad Boy, Again
Diddy and King Los walk the red carpet, 2013 - Tommaso Boddi/WireImage/Getty Images
If the above statement is seen as an admission that Los couldn’t produce the radio-ready goods that Diddy desired, it could help explain why he languished on the shelf at Bad Boy. Losing vital time in an industry where the hourglass is on steroids, and without a major debut album to show for it, Los and Diddy soon severed their ties on a formal level.
"Forever in the Bad Boy family, just I’ve chosen to explore other endeavors just like my mentor, just like Puff," King Los declared in March 2014.
Although he was insistent that their split was "amicable" and born of refusal to "stagnate," rumours began to surface that his decision to part ways with the label was due to an explosive rant by Diddy. And this rant would soon be adapted by Rick Ross and inserted into the intro of "Nobody" from 2014’s Mastermind.
Rick Ross "Nobody" featuring French Montana
"You wanted to fuckin' walk around these roaches. These n***s is mere motherfuckin' mortals. I'm tryna push you to supreme being," an impassioned and irate Diddy proclaimed. "You don't wanna embrace your destiny, you wanna get by. You don't wanna go into the motherfuckin' dark where it's lonely. You can't handle the motherfuckin', the pain of the motherfuckin' not knowin' when the shit is gonna stop."
While Ross would not reveal who the words were aimed at, he did confirm that they were not targeting his "Nobody" guest feature, and another Bad Boy signee, French Montana. "When I took [the rant] and chopped it up and put it on my record I gave him my word. I would never reveal who it was that he was scolding because it's someone you know," Rozay said at the time.
Naturally, speculation began to run rampant, and as the news of Los’ departure broke just one month later, fans started to do the math. Shortly after this idea gained traction, Los headed to RapFixLive and inferred that he may have been the recipient of Diddy’s ire.
"I love the mystique of this. I'ma let this play out a little bit, but boy, your intuitive skills, man," Los revealed. "I had something to do with it."
Moving on to RCA Records
King Los at the BET Hip-Hop Awards, 2014 - Bennett Raglin/BET/Getty Images
Chewed out by Diddy or not, Los' potential and upside remained so pronounced that after releasing one tape in the form of Zero Gravity II, he was immediately snapped up, and signed a joint venture between RCA and After Platinum.
At the time, After Platinum CEO Ernie Romero described the deal as "the perfect platform for us to reach the next level," and with that, they prepared to make their assault on the mainstream and step out of the mixtape terrain, finally.
Executive produced by Diddy, 2015’s God, Money, War was billed as a digital-only prelude to his official debut album and as fans will remember, the project had an undeniable gravitas to it before its release. In interviews, Los spoke of its philosophical outlook and even suggested that he’d attempted to move out of his wheelhouse a little, for the benefit of the content.
"I actually have to fight not to be lyrical," he told HNHH in 2015 by way of pre-release promotion. "Not to dumb down, but just to have a conversation that everyone can embrace. Because the message is too important. That’s me getting on your level, lyrically melodically, sonically. The album will have more attack. The album will be scary."
Arriving in June of that year, God, Money, War proved that he could juggle dualing perspectives, spiritual battles and flows while even trying his hand at Billboard crossovers, with the same energy that’d made his mixtapes into a hot commodity. Featuring standout tracks such as the transfixing "War" and the Isaiah Rashad-aided "Black Blood," the record was the culmination of a decade-long journey from his initial deal in 2006. And yet, it didn’t re-calibrate the industry as expected.
Amassing 7,000 sales in its first week, the project peaked at number 68 and while it did receive its fair amount of plaudits, it wasn’t the paradigm-shifting event that was hoped for by Los nor his fans.
Sadly, the album that it was intended as a precursor to has still yet to arrive. Billed by Los back in 2015 as arriving "late this year, first quarter" and with "legends on deck," it’s gone on to become the underground hip-hop equivalent of Detox in its elusiveness.
Still bursting with ingenuity and wisdom but with no sizeable audience to impart it to, his contributions to Diddy’s star-studded MMM would arrive later that same year, but did little to move the needle and with that, it felt as though his spell as a contender for worldwide renown was seemingly over.
In the years that have passed, Los got back to his mixtape hustle. Both released in December 2017, G.O.A.T saw him put his skill set forward and vie for the hall of fame, while the Puff Diddy-introduced Moors Bars was an exercise in exquisite bar work over a succession of trap beats. Elsewhere, Los bested Head Ice in a legendary battle rap outing for Rare Breed Ent in 2018.
To this day, his self-belief remains unwavering and he’s not afraid to inform his rivals or detractors of his credentials.
"I have heard certain battle rappers create slurs about my career being cold," he tweeted in February 2019. "You should see my publishing checks, I’ve written for the artist you think are litty. I wrote a whole season of Empire and just did a Netflix series with Cardi B. My next move is (fire) just wait."
Screenshot via twitter
In terms of his whereabouts presently, April’s 4Peace Nugget release saw him doing what he does best; bodying beats and making them his own, including"Lemon Pepper Freestyle" and Mobb Deep’s classic "Survival Of The Fittest."
While there’s plenty of baffling tales of missed opportunities in hip-hop, King Los’ is uniquely frustrating in that his skills, deals and overall acclaim from peers suggest that he should’ve been a fixture, but instead, he remains on the fringes of public acclaim. Vaunted by hip-hop’s devotees, but left behind from the highly-commercialized landscape that is now hip-hop music, Los refuses to count himself out. And with any luck, he’ll eventually strike gold in the manner that his talent has warranted for years.
Have you been keeping up with King Los all these years? Sound off in the comments.