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King Von | Grandson Album Review

Navigating the ethics of posthumous albums can be tricky. You can either carefully and tastefully complete a project that was already near completion, like Mac Miller’s Circles, or you can haphazardly compile any piece of recorded vocals, slap a generic beat on it, throw in some features and call it a day, like the bastardized collection of posthumous XXXTentacion records. King Von’s posthumous efforts, Welcome To O’Block and What It Means To Be King land in the first category. But with Grandson, his latest posthumous project, it’s clear that the well is beginning drying up.

It’s no secret Von lived a life surrounded by violence. Even new fans would be able to see that within seconds of his opening verse on “Don’t Miss.” Across the two-minute intro, Von raps about outsmarting those who oppose him, the weight of being blamed for people’s murders, and the paranoia that follows when your infamy grows. These three themes make up the bulk of the album’s topics, which is understandable given the time Von recorded them, though its lack of varied subject matter becomes repetitive.

King Von always sounds assertive in his raps, rarely leaving any room to question his ability to lead or inspire. “Phil Jackson” sounds like a cocaine-fueled attempt at asserting his dominance with Von referencing the titular coach and Shaq’s innate ability to score at his peak, while Polo G likens himself to Osama Bin Laden in his verse. The cockiness isn’t without humor, which toys with the idea that Von wasn’t as self-serious as his raps would imply.

As dour and violent as Von’s raps come off on Grandson, there are still sobering moments of introspection and essential context. He blames his coldness on growing up in the grimier sides of Chicago on “From The Hood” with Lil Durk. Despite Durk’s surface-level lyrics ( “Don’t take it personal / It hit different when you comin’ from the hood”), the passion with which he raps them shows a level of conviction he hasn’t demonstrated much on his own tracks in years. Von only appears for a single verse, indicating that the song was probably only half-ready by the time Durk got his hands on it, but perhaps the grief helped inspire his Chicago peer to tap back into his earnest side.

The moments of self-reflection are rare, with the only other weighty tracks coming near the finish line, though to mixed results. “Out Of The Streets” feebly attempts to show that Von wanted to escape his old life, but his autotuned vocals don’t play well with a beat that could be listed under an “inspirational” tag on YouTube. Moneybagg Yo and Hotboii tag along…for some reason, and neither of them adds anything interesting to an already awkward attempt at sincerity. Still, the penultimate song “When I Die” could serve as an apt conclusion to Von’s saga, even if it skims the surface of what his death would mean to him and his close ones.

It would be unfair to judge Grandson on the lack of depth, but its redundancy is unmistakable. Many of the tracks share a lyrical formula and most of the beats are passable, but Von’s charisma and thorny flows never leave room to grow bored. Think of his performances as Fast & Furious movies, albeit with a little extra bite. They don’t always offer the deepest insights, but rarely do they slow down to the point of walking away. It helps that additional voices chime in to round out the edges, but for the most part, Von does enough to keep the listener gripped by his vivid storytelling.

If King Von’s team is smart, they’ll know that Grandson marks the end of the road for the Chicago rapper’s music. Much like the album that preceded it, it can only do so much before it becomes apparent that these songs and ideas weren’t finished. Songs like “Jimmy,” “GangLand” and ‘Robberies” show that he had plenty left in the tank and their inclusion feels necessary, but they become depressing when you realize that this is it. Musically, it seems like we’ve seen all the sides of King Von, and any extra attempts would be milking it if this album is the best stuff left in the vault.

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