Meet Rembl: Drakeo’s protege and LA’s next big hip-hop star

“I wouldn’t say I’m worried about myself,” Remble said of his personal safety. “Yes, Drakeo, it was a real tragic experience.”

(Mariah Tauger/Los Angeles Times)

The San Pedro Rembl rapper learned that Drakeo the Ruler, his mentor and champion, was in trouble in a text from his aunt.

“She was in the trailer for one of the other rappers,” 21-year-old Eunique Cooper Remble said of the Once Upon a Time in LA music festival. Rembl had spent a late night at Roddy Ricch’s album release party the day before, so he’d skipped the December 18 gig – featuring Snoop Dogg, Al Green and Drakeo among many legends and hip-hop stars. hop and R&B – to write music.

As the night progressed, “she thought Drakeo was in trouble or hurt or something, from what she overheard. She texted me saying he wasn’t. there was only yellow duct tape and helicopters there.

“I was kind of shocked,” Rembl continued. “I started calling, I wasn’t getting any answers. I just started getting back to back calls saying Drakeo was having issues. As the hours passed, we started seeing messages on Instagram, the “Rest in peace” messages. Remble sent desperate messages to other members of Drakeo’s Stinc Team, including Drakeo’s brother, Ralfy the Plug, trying to find out if this crazy rumor might be true. It was: Drakeo had been stabbed to death.

“Losing Drakeo like we lost Nipsey Hussle,” he said, “was devastating.”

Drakeo’s murder, just a year after the 28-year-old was released from a possible life sentence, has shocked the hip-hop world. It added to a grim record of violence that claimed the lives of rappers such as Hussle, XXXTentacion, Pop Smoke, Young Dolph and Slim 400. rap scene, which simultaneously spins up-and-coming stars like Baby Keem and Blxst while losing others to violence and prison.

Rembl, whose young life has been haunted by loss since childhood, must now find his own way in stride. With a major label deal, tens of millions of streams, a placement on Spotify’s “Artists to Watch” list, and one of the most distinctive and technically impressive vocal styles to come out of LA in years, he’s at the forefront of SoCal rap in 2022.

But since Drakeo’s murder – which remains unsolved, no suspects have been arrested – that hope is eaten away by fear. Rembl is an heir to Drakeo’s artistic legacy, but in troubled times for LA hip-hop, that coat feels out of place.

“I wouldn’t say I’m worried about myself,” Rembl said, staring at the carpet in a home recording studio earlier this month. “Yes, Drakeo, it was a real tragic experience.”

On a foggy January morning, Remble works in a spare bedroom in a very suburban SoCal condo, around the corner from an empty community pool complex. Remble managers never gave the exact address over the phone or email, instead asking a Times reporter to park around the block and walk to the unit.

At 10 a.m. on a Friday, Remble already has his Logic rig open on a laptop, in front of a green screen video backdrop. He’s alone upstairs, except for his brother, who is quietly texting around the studio area. Rembl is dressed in a camel tracksuit and durag as he sifts through a folder of new demos to play for The Times.

It’s not quite where you’d expect to find the new face of LA rapping, but “it’s exactly where I am today,” he said warily. Remble is calm and thoughtful in conversation and a bit shy about interviews — “I know I don’t speak too well,” he said shyly.

Rembl is heavily guarded, ever since his father was sentenced to life in prison when Rembl was 5 (when asked what his father was sentenced to, Rembl reportedly only said it was ‘non-violent’) what is it like his daily life at the moment. He won’t mention who owns this place, and neither he nor his team will give specific details of where he was when he learned of Drakeo’s murder. (He did not attend the December 21 memorial service at Drakeo’s home in Runyon Canyon.)

Considering the targeted manner of Drakeo’s death, that makes sense. “Call it my Airbnb,” Remble said. “I try not to say where I live.”

A man in a pink-brown sweatshirt in front of a white wall

“In a perfect world, everyone would just be home,” Remble said.

(Mariah Tauger/Los Angeles Times)

He is much more verbose on the file. Rembl has one of the catchiest and finest flows in contemporary hip-hop. If the trap and Soundcloud rap of the past few years was defined by benzo-iced depression, Remble’s delivery cuts with the precision of a sushi chef.

Rembl recorded their first track, “fortnitein 2018 at the age of 15. On early singles like “Gordon R Freestyle” Where “Ruth’s Chris Freestylehis style is inspired by the tension funk of local hero Dom Kennedy and the torrent of words of Busta Rhymes. But he lands with deadpan, nonchalant clarity and complete breath control. Once you’ve heard one of the scary and heartbreaking verses from “Touchable” – “I’m away from kindergarten and eating Lunchables / I just took your life and as you know it’s not refundable – his unmistakable sound feels almost in direct opposition to most rapping today.

“I just like to listen to music that I can clearly understand,” Remble said. “But it came with time, me being in the studio every day, I just happened to be.”

“Remble almost feels like an answer to mumble rap,” said Carl Chery, Spotify’s creative director and head of urban music.
“He enunciates in a way you’re not used to hearing.”

“I think it’s fair to say that Remble is polarizing,” said Aaron Bay-Schuck, CEO and co-chairman of Warner Records, Rembl’s label. “You either love it or hate it, there’s not much room to be in the middle. I believe that is the mark of a true artist.

Bay-Schuck said that at first, “I honestly didn’t know if I liked what I was hearing. Every time you hear something so different from what works on a mass commercial level, it makes you think. It makes you think and asks you questions. But right away, he also felt that “beneath the punchlines, there is a rapper who demands and deserves respect.

“A lot of his records lack traditional choruses or don’t have them at all,” Bay-Schuck continued, calling it “a risky move in a short-term attention economy.” Nonetheless, “Touchable” has nearly 40 million Spotify plays, with new single “Rocc Climbing,” featuring Lil Yachty, hot on its heels.

The pandemic has forced young artists to train or adapt their styles at home, without the return of live stages. Remble – who as a youth bounced from San Pedro and a Christian school in Compton to Los Angeles suburbs Bellflower and Lakewood – says he’s never even seen a live rap show, let alone played at a. He only released a handful of singles and an entire mixtape, “It’s Remble.”

“I’ve never been to a concert,” Remble said. “It was never my thing. But my dad used to have [New Orleans rap duo] Big Tymers played when I was younger. Then I started listening to J. Cole and Kendrick, and then I ended up getting into the LA rap scene and listening to a lot of Drakeo.

Rapper Drakeo the Ruler performs onstage during Rolling Loud

Drakeo the Ruler, Remble’s friend and mentor, was fatally stabbed at the Once Upon a Time festival in Los Angeles on December 18. His murder is still unsolved.

(Scott Dudelson/Getty Images)

Just months after Drakeo’s release from prison in late 2020, Rembl released “Ruth’s Chris Freestyle,” with sly taunts like “My mama said to me, ‘Look at the snakes,’ I didn’t notice/j ‘had to pay the consequences because they p—’ bit me. Drakeo heard it on Instagram and almost immediately responded, asking to jump on the track. Remble gained traction on TikTok, and fans stunned described it in comments as “rapping in MLA format”.

“Drakeo was always really cool,” Rembl said. “He was really supportive in trying to sign me, and we went to a lot of video shoots and studio sessions together.” He is silent thinking of the time now lost. “I wish I could have gotten closer to him.”

Drakeo isn’t the only role model drawn from Remble’s life. Rembl remains close to both his parents, and he often speaks to his father in prison, in a somber echo of Drakeo’s own “Thank you for using GTL,” which the rapper recorded from a phone behind bars. (“It was a dope album,” Rumble said, knowingly.)

“It affected me in the same way as any other child who grew up without a father,” he said, emphasizing his father’s warm character and encouraging his influence on him, even in the current circumstances. “I was as close as I could get to my dad before he was arrested and everything. I still keep the conversation going with him.

Remble and everyone around him are acutely aware of the stakes when Drakeo, a cause celeb for the Los Angeles rap world, or Nipsey Hussle, a universally beloved community figure, can be killed for barely explainable reasons.

The facts about Drakeo’s murder are still emerging. The late rapper mother and friends said that they believe people associated with rapper YG were involved in the backstage melee that killed him. Drakeo’s family said they plan to sue festival promoter Live Nation for negligence, but the fatal stabbing was also horrifying evidence of the tensions in the Los Angeles rap scene (documented in songs like Drakeo’s “IngleWEIRD”), and a decades-old Blood-versus-Crip gang culture that, at times, bleeds into it.

Warner’s Bay-Schuck said that the label’s role right now is to give Rembl “the space to process rapid success. Let it process the grief of losing someone so close. It’s heavy to become famous. It’s hard to lose someone you care about. Our expectations must be realistic. This is how we best protect it.

Drakeo wasn’t even Stinc Team’s first death last year – rapper Ketchy the Great died in a car accident in February. As evidenced by the home-studio hideout, Rembl keeps a low profile following the death of his mentor while trying to navigate his escape as one of the most acclaimed new rappers in town. That’s a lot for a 21-year-old.

“I can live much more comfortably now and I don’t have to risk my freedom to get everything I need, you know what I mean?” he said. “I’m a pretty normal guy. I just listen to beats every day, trying to find different sounds and focus on different strategies to help my dad get out of jail. That is just about everything.

Before heading out for the day, Rembl spotted two new tracks produced by DJ Mustard that he’s been working on. The songs are raw and hazy, but within seconds there’s her voice running through it all.

“It’s just kinda crazy how people can be taken away from me. I wish I could get closer to Drakeo as a person. Like, he really helped me a lot,” Rembl said.

“In a perfect world, everyone would just be at home.”

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