East London’s KO has been on a consistent roll since he first emerged on the scene a few years ago. A lot has changed since then – he’s several features deep (with the likes of digga d and rv), he’s got his debut mixtape out, and fellow Homerton rappers V9 and Unknown T have both seen success (and legal troubles too with T’s recent incarceration). However, he shows that this underrated group still have a lot to offer.
KO is the lyricist of the group and while his last tune, WHIP was an undeniable drill banger, this song pushes his trademark barring ability to another level. Setting the scene for Drilliam Shakespeare, this new Intro shows us that KO isn’t messing around. With a name like that for a project, this song had to set pace and KO lives up to that expectation easily.
This song is ambitious and definitely worth a listen to get to know KO – it may be a better introduction to him than his infamous Mad About Bars freestyle. Since #TSM last year, we may be in store for another solid tape from Homerton’s own.
The first thing that sticks out to you about the tune is the instrumental. The beat isn’t just a loop but a real production that shifts to change the mood of the tune and keep things interesting. Kayman keeps things moving with some synths and some lowkey bass that quickly build up into a cold piano melody. The beat has a sentimental mood that you don’t often see in drill, but it manages not to sound too preachy or over emotional. There’s definitely no overdoing it on the beat.
Lyrically KO relies on his signature wordplay, complex rhymes and his understated but intense flow. It’s impressive as usual and you can tell KO definitely takes pride in his bars. However, this song focuses a lot more on storytelling than anything else; I Was is more of a declaration of who he is and where he’s come from than anything else, as KO takes you through his teenage years to his twenties, and the violence, crime and struggles he’s faced throughout. It’s not a clean story by any means – KO dips in and out of violence, regret and ambition throughout but he paints a vivid picture of what he’s really overcome to try and take drill seriously.
Even without the autobiographical aspect of the song, there’s still some quotable bars, especially “No hesitating to rise up skengs in the ends, separating the mice and men".
If this song got you excited for Drilliam Shakespeare (out of the end of the month) then you can check out the video on Mixtape Madness below.