By Jill Rosen, The Baltimore Sun
7:53 PM EST, January 24, 2013
King Los is not merely a young rapper on the verge, cultivating buzz and working with Diddy's record label. He's also a Ravens fan — in his words, a "humongous" one.
So while many a weekend musician has slung together tributes inspired by Baltimore's playoff run, the anthem Los released Wednesday is already turning heads in hip-hop circles, generating tens of thousands of hits and raising the possibility that Charm City might have claim to its own "Black and Yellow," the Pittsburgh anthem Wiz Khalifa topped the charts with in 2010.
As soon as the Ravens beat the Patriots and he knew his team was New Orleans-bound, Los, who grew up Carlos Coleman in the Liberty Heights and Garrison areas of West Baltimore, was compelled to create, he said Thursday.
"It was a big moment for sports and this city and I definitely felt it was necessary," he said. "I was like: All right man, time to represent, let's go."
Producer J. Oliver, whose real name is Jeffery Robinson Jr., created the track in a whirlwind four-hour session after the championship game. He sent it to Los, who'd locked down lyrics by Monday.
Los says he wants listeners to be inspired, for the team and the city as a whole.
"There's a triumphant factor here," he says. "We're a pretty tough town. We take a lot of criticism and we're known for a lot of things. But to be known for being a champion and just the tenacity of Ray Lewis.
"I made it about anyone who comes from the bottom. Everybody counted you out and then there they are, at the Super Bowl."
"Came from the bottom. Great to be a champ. Did it on our own nobody gave us a chance," he sings. "No matter the odds, keep God in the circle, now every time it rain we turn the whole world purple."
It's a stirring song, building from the delicate tinkling of a finger on a piano key to a thumping rap beat with bold lines. Los works in players such as Joe Flacco, Anquan Boldin and Ray Rice, and dedicates the song, titled "Purple Reign," to Ray Lewis and to Baltimore.
Los doesn't miss a Ravens game, even when he's on the West Coast, which is a lot these days. He's found a Ravens bar in Los Angeles, and when he's in Baltimore, he heads to his uncle's house to hole up in his man cave, where there's a projection screen and loads of snacks.
Los' own favorite line in his song: "The Ravens should let me play center the way I'm snappin on these lines."
By Thursday afternoon, the song was the fourth-most-popular on the national hip-hop site Hot New Hip-Hop.
Music sharing site AudioMack said on Twitter that in the song, the drumbeat "The 808 drum hits harder than an unblocked Terrell Suggs."
Ki Ki Brown, a personality with local radio station 92Q, loves the song, and thinks it "speaks from the pulse of Baltimore to the heart of Baltimore."
And, perhaps most notably, famed New York disc jockey Funkmaster Flex gave a shout-out to his more than 800,000 Twitter followers.
J. Oliver and Los, meanwhile, were working it behind the scenes, knowing the song would go into hyperdrive with one mention from any of the Ravens players.
In recent weeks, it's been amply proven that a song doesn't need a music industry pedigree to go viral in Baltimore, with everyone hyped and ready to hear anything that will ratchet their fervor even higher.
Homemade songs that have made the rounds include "Bring on Brady," a take on Carly Rae Jepsen's hit "Call Me Maybe," by a Salisbury man, his father and his wife. There was also old-school Baltimore radio favorites, the Breakfast Flakes — Troy Johnson and Marc Clarke. A singer from Rockville named Meredith Seidel put out "Purple Sunday." Mullyman, another rapper, has one, also called "Purple Reign," that borrows from the old Prince song "Purple Rain."
And that's just a handful. YouTube overflows with them.
"We just use a tripod with my crappy little handicam," said Matt Robins, who put together "Call Me Brady" and expects to release a Super Bowl-themed sequel as early as this weekend. "We just kind of put it out there and we had no idea this would happen. Next thing I know, ESPN's calling me and we're on the Ravens website."
"We are superfans and now you have folks just trying to jump on the bandwagon," he said with a wink. "Where were these guys when the Ravens lost to Cleveland? We were there. We had a song."
Often with these songs, talent takes a back seat to passion. No one minds an off note or a strained lyric when team pride is at stake. But when Los approached him about producing his Ravens song, J. Oliver said he was less than thrilled at first.
"I know that this whole Ravens anthem thing is corny. I'll be the first to tell you that," he says, adding that Los' enthusiasm swayed him — that and his own unabashed purple pride. "This is Ray Lewis' last year, and he goes all the way to Super Bowl? I just want people to know this is Baltimore's time to shine. This is epic."
The dream for a lot of these fans is to have their labor of love played during a Ravens game. Last year, when the playoff song of the moment was "Ravens Nation," the song earned radio play and copious online shares, but the makers dreamed of hearing it reverberate through the stadium. Alas, it was not to be. Ravens management has a policy against playing unlicensed fan music.
Even so, Los has his eyes on the prize. He's holding off buying a Super Bowl ticket, hoping he might get a last-minute invitation to perform "Purple Reign" on the stage that's already boasting the likes of Beyonce.
"I don't know," he says with a laugh. "I might end up having to perform there somehow, some way. Maybe on the 50-yard line."
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