On November 4, as the country focused on the results of the 2020 presidential election, Drakeo the Ruler received great news. He was going to be released from the Los Angeles Men’s Central Jail after serving three years behind bars.
The L.A. rapper was initially facing up to 25 years to life for criminal gang conspiracy and shooting from a motor vehicle. And as his defense attorney explained in a statement, Drakeo “suffered through three years of cruel and unjust treatment” while battling the criminal justice system. But in a turn of events that left both Drakeo and his legal team surprised, he was offered a plea deal. Later that evening, he was released and on his way home. “I’m out bitch. Time to snatch you nigga [careers],” he tweeted in his first post-prison message.
Speaking with Complex over the phone, only three weeks after his release, Drakeo acknowledges that his newfound freedom is still taking some time to get used to. But he is more focused than ever. Now, he is releasing his first project as a free man. The project, titled We Know the Truth, was written entirely during his time behind bars and recorded in his first 10 days of freedom. It’s an impressive achievement, but Drakeo warns us that he’s just getting started.
Celebrating the release of the project, Drakeo speaks about life after lock-up, his new music, and more. The interview, lightly edited for clarity, is below. You can stream We Know the Truth here.
How are you feeling now that you are free?
It’s starting to hit me now, I guess. But as far as how I feel, I don't know. I’m kind of like, damn, I’m really home. It’s kind of crazy.
You’re coming out to a global pandemic. Has it been difficult for you to adjust?
Yeah, low key, it kind of has. It’s just mad shit. I don’t know.
What were the days and hours like leading up to your release? Did you actually believe you were getting out?
I really didn’t take it seriously. I didn’t think I was going to get out. I ain’t going to lie. Just from them telling me, I’m like, “Nah, hell nah. These people, they got some other shit going on.” It was just weird until I got out of jail. And then I was like, “Oh shit, I’m really out.” But I wasn’t really counting on that shit. My lawyer told me after the DA told them. But I didn’t believe them when they said that. My lawyer’s like, “Don’t really count on this, but this is what they’re saying.” And I’m like, “Yeah whatever. Fuck that.”
You accepted a plea deal for your release even though you have maintained your innocence. What made you decide to go through with the deal?
Because I got tired of fucking being in there. And I just realized that if I just do that right then and there, I can get out and make as much music as I want, and piss them off anyway.
You’re releasing a project today…
Yeah, on my birthday.
Happy early birthday! What can you tell us about the creative process for this project?
I don’t know. I’m just used to doing this shit now, from writing all them fucking songs in jail and shit. I can just write shit like that. Before, it probably would have been a problem, but I actually did this faster than I did that whole mixtape.
You mentioned your writing process. You wrote all 18 tracks on the project while you were away?
Yeah, I wrote all these songs in jail.
Is there a particular song that really speaks to you or will hit differently with your fans?
All of them. I'm pretty sure they just miss me talking shit.
You recorded this project in the three weeks after your release. What has been your motivation to produce music so quickly?
Just the fact that I was in jail all this time, for three years, so I couldn’t. I didn’t have time really to put out music how I wanted to. So that kind of made me say, I got to keep recording until there’s nothing left to record. Just me being in there all that time and not being able to put out no music, or not having no music to put out, that kind of made me think: when I get out, I’m going to record as much as I can.
You mentioned that fans miss you talking shit. Is there anything else you want them to take away from this project?
Basically, everything that they thought. I can’t be fucked with. I used to think people liked all my pictures all the time. They'd say, "Oh, he's washed up." And I'm going to be in jail for the rest of my life. So this is going to be a confirmation to everybody that I’m still around.
You’ve received a lot of support from fans while you were locked up and now that you’re out. What has that meant to you?
It meant a lot. I feel like, most people, their fans don't stick around. A lot of people lose friends and stuff like that. So for me to still have them, it's a blessing. I really appreciate it.
In past interviews, you’ve said you felt targeted because you are a successful Black man who made it out of poverty. Do you feel like that’s something you will always have to worry about being in rap and the music industry?
Of course. Hell, yeah. That shit don’t go away.
With that still being a constant worry, do you think that will change how you maneuver and go about your career and business?
I don’t even think about it or pay it no mind. I just worry about getting in the studio and making songs. The other shit is just irrelevant. I don’t have time for that. Even though I’ve been having to deal with a lot of fuckers taking shots at me and shit.
You’re dropping We Know the Truth today, but what’s next?
I’m going to drop another mixtape, too. I’m just waiting. I’m supposed to put out three, but I was just doing this right now because my fans kept bugging me and shit.
What’s the most important thing people should know about you right now?
That I’m fitting to take over everything. Just wait. I got big plans. I got a lot of stuff in the works.