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Before King Von had even been rapping for six months, his two music video singles had earned him two million views. That’s because the 23-year-old signed to Lil Durk’s OTF Records makes songs without compromise or imitation. “Problems” and “War Wit Us” are represent heartbeat of Chicago’s roughest section, delivered with a raw intensity that rings authentic.
“I’m signed to the streets,” Von recently told The Breakfast Club alongside Durk whose mixtapes coined that phrase. Hailing from the notorious “O Block” recognized for its violence, the rapper, whose first name is DaVon, says that it was not until he saw the world recently that he had anything to compare that world to. In early 2018, it appeared that Von might never the outside again. He faced a life sentence for a murder charge. Innocent, Von took the case to trial and eventually won. Deliberation took years, causing anguish for his devoted mother and grandma.
“I never had it in my mind that I was gonna rap. When you’re in there, you’re so far from the door, so far away from getting out that you are just focused on that. My big goal was just being free. There was no ‘you’ve got 8 months left’ awaiting trial. If found guilty, I was getting 100 years. I wasn’t thinking past just hoping to get out.” When he left the cell, his childhood friend Durk reached out with an opportunity and invited Von to get away from the violence, in Atlanta.
Durk’s label, Only The Family, embodies a deep sense of brotherhood. Like Durk, labelmates Booka600, OTF Ikey, and Doodie Lo knew Von long before the viral videos and hot tracks. “We all grew up together. Other people are brought together because of label stuff. We’ve been together; the music is just giving us the business. We’re just hanging with our friends and doing what we do,” says Von, who, despite his aggressive music, is chatty, humorous, and polite. He now permanently lives in the ATL while he tours with his team and tends to his family back home. Chicago’s storied Englewood section is where Von’s family remains and is the gruff backdrop of those two videos. “I’ve been booked since I was 16; I haven’t been out a whole year since 2010,” he admits. Although innocent of his most serious charges, the time out of the streets took away a piece of Von’s life but allowed him to see a bigger perspective. “That time is gone. I done messed up so much. So many people went and done this or accomplished that, and I’m still stuck where I was at 16.”
That kept Von from social media and cheap trends in music. He admits that he was unaware of The Breakfast Club until he arrived for the interview. That isolation also keeps his sound and style unadulterated and pure of trend-chasing. Despite newfound fame, he writes rhymes while taking long bus-rides through his new hometown for inspiration, soaking up the freedom he very nearly lost to a flawed criminal justice system. “Now that I’ve moved away and experienced other places and see how everything else is, I realize how messed up it is back home. But if you grew up there, how would you know? It’s regular. Now, every place that I go feels like a vacation.”
King Von is an integral part of OTF’s upcoming 2019 compilation. Releasing potent music, he is also crafting a solo debut. In the meantime, he values his freedom and hopes to give the same streets that he is forever bound to, a message that there is more out there for the taking.
OTF Ikey Press Bio (Draft #1)
Singer/rapper OTF Ikey has a cool and laid-back demeanor. Even as a part of charged-up songs like his crew’s “Play Your Role” (2+ million YouTube views), or “We Dem Ni**as” with Lil Durk and Mozzy, Ikey says he just feels regular. A self-proclaimed older brother within the OTF crew, the 26-year-old says he enjoys making music and playing the background. However, the naturally-talented vocalist’s melodic sound is anything but low-profile; it stands out proudly.
Ikey comes from a large family that dealt with fracture and hardship. He was raised by an older sister in Parkway Garden Homes in Chicago’s South Side. “We were all split up; my mama had like 14 kids. I had some brothers and some sisters that stayed around, but we were all in different places. But we still eventually stuck around each other when we got older,” he notes, adding that he had no relationship with his parents. The sister that brought up Ikey was a street figure, and he admired how she was perceived. Growing up, he learned the survival tactics in a cutthroat environment. “Once the projects got tore down, you had people from different hoods living together. It’s a decent area, but you gotta know some people, or you gotta be known.”
For much of Ikey’s life, the streets were the only thing that interested him. He followed in his sister’s path. Although running around in the streets with some of the figures that today are part of his OTF crew, he was surrounded by elders at home. They exposed him to classic Rhythm & Blues and Soul music from before his time. It also shaped Ikey to become an old soul in his mannerisms and interests. Since he was young, Ikey says he enjoyed singing, but was not in an environment to build on it. That changed when somebody Ikey had known for a decade, Lil Durk, became a star out of the neighborhood. As Durk launched OTF (Only The Family), Ikey was regularly with him on stage, in the studio, and moving around. “Once Durk got big, people kept telling me to make music. I was already around it,” recalls Ikey. “I just took heed to it and started doing it. I liked the vibe I was coming with. Once I did it more, I realized that I sounded kind of good. A lot of people can’t do this,” he says of rappers who do makeshift singing. Ikey’s voice is strong and confident. “I can come up with a pathway to a song through singing.”
Others like it too. Since late 2016, Ikey has been releasing his own songs, including “Turbulence” with Durk and 600 Booka. That video single achieved more than 500,000 views. “Trenches” is not far behind, and it features Durk and Doodielo, JL, and OJ 3000. OTF represents the bond he always wanted. “We are a family. We came up like that, so we never stopped looking at each other like it,” he admits. “I have blood relatives that I don’t even consider as much family as I do with them.” In 2019, he will take the road with OTF, as he has on past Durk headlining tours in addition to past runs with Meek Mill, Jeezy, and Chief Keef.
In 2018, Ikey was a fixture on both volumes of Only The Family Involved. The compilations have reached well over 500,000 monthly streamers on Spotify alone, with songs like Ikey’s commanding “Trapping Hard” serving as standout moments. Video single “Let It Rain” with Canada’s Park Hill tells a somber story of survival amidst pain and hardship. In the new year, Ikey is hard at work on his debut EP and stepping more into the light with his versatile sound.
“I don’t rap like where I come from. In my hood, everybody raps a certain way. I prefer storytelling,” says Booka600. A product of the Washington Park neighborhood in Chicago’s South Side, the artist on Lil Durk’s Only The Family roster has a story to tell, and the wisdom to make it compelling. “I really started music when I was incarcerated. I thought about it and realized that I didn’t want to rap about violence. I wanted to be a motivational artist to change the thought process. Even if you are in the gutter or you are in the trenches, you still need some type of motivation. ‘Cause I was the same person in jail. I wanted to give the people hope.”
At 24 years old, Booka went from a junior high valedictorian to a high school dropout while dealing with circumstances in some of the America’s deadliest streets. “I had a rough childhood. I witnessed guns, drugs, shootouts, violence, the typical street life,” he recalls, as a middle child raised by a single mother. However, even behind bars, the old soul who used to dress up and walk alone down the block to attend church during his pre-adolescence wanted to seek salvation through music. “There’s life beyond shootin’, killin’, and drug dealin’, and it’s a better life than that, for sure,” he touts. In person, Booka is mild-mannered and rarely curses. He says he has known Durk and many of his OTF label-mates all of his life. After a handful of features, the team offered him a roster spot and changed his world. “Durk made me want to rap—like be a real rapper and truly tell my story. He gave me confidence and helped me with a lot of things like a mentor would,” he admits. In early 2017, Durk oversaw a collection of songs that included “Stop Me,” a melodic and soulful track that with more than 300,000 video views.
By 2018, Booka was a heavy presence on OTF’s Only The Family Involved, Vol. 1 compilation. Posse video single “7:30” has climbed to nearly 1.5 million plays, while “Play Yo Role” soared past the 2 million-mark. “Our relationship is not falsified; it’s real. It’s not going out for the money. Durk helps us tell our stories, ‘cause he knows our story,” Booka notes of his team. By late 2018, the rapper released Six Summers, a symbolic ode to his block, his years in the streets, and the six calendars that the OTF family has rapping together, building a brand, brick by brick. Songs like “Pesos” and “Oj” showed an artist putting his life on display, and shedding some skin from his troublesome past. This was the story Booka was poised to tell, and Durk believed in.
In 2019, Booka is at work on his next album. He’s collaborated with Tee Grizzley, Durk, King Von, and spending time trading verses with Atlanta artists. “It’s all based on how I’m feeling now. I talk about transitioning from poverty to living in my own house, to owning other buildings and whatnot,” he says. The Southsider transformed his life and experienced the world. He tours with Durk, fresh off of a list of dates with Meek Mill. “I got a different vibe than everybody else. I perform for real, but don’t get hyper. I’m cool and mellow, so the fans can really pick up on my vibes.” His stage show matches his energy on songs: authentic, sincere, and the young guy with an old-head’s sense of wisdom and calm. He adds, “It’s been a blast these last two years, breathing different air and being in different time zones and seeing a different world than home.”
Booka600 takes his neighborhood with him everywhere that he goes, but he wants all of his fans to see the possibility behind the housing projects and cutthroat blocks, wherever they are.
OTF Signee Booka600 Recruits Lil Durk, King Von, Tee Grizzley and More For ‘Word To LA’ Project
Lil Durk Protégé OTF Ikey Takes Swipes at Frauds in “Counterfeit”
OTF-Signed Cult Hero Memo600 Continues His Rise With “Wipe Yo Nose”
OTF Signee, BOOKA600, Announces Word To LA Album With Appearances From Lil Durk, Tee Grizzley, and King Von
OTF’s Doodie Lo Kicks It in Kankakee in the “Time Out” Video
OTF’s Booka600 Recruits Lil Durk & Lil Zay Osama for a Melodic Street Anthem
OTF Standout Memo600 Can’t Abide Posers on the Vicious “Steppers” Single
OTF Ikey Shines Light on Bleak Realities in the “Dead Bodies” Video
Booka600 Carries the Weight of His Troubled Past in the DGB-Premiered “War Scars”
OTF Signee Booka600 Has Been Waiting For This Moment in the “Baguette Bandz” Video
Lil Durk Co-Signees Park Hill & OTF Ikey Make You Feel Their Pain in a New HipHopDX-Premiered Video
Lil Durk Shares Only The Family Involved Vol. 2, His New OTF Label Compilation Mixtape
Lil Durk Signee OTF Ikey Pops Off and Counts Cash in “Trappin Hard” Video
OTF Signee King Von Dramatizes a “Crazy Story” in a Charismatic Video
OTF Soldier Booka600 Shares Six Summers Mixtape, With an Appearance From Lil Durk
Lil Durk Teams Up With OTF Signee Booka600 for a Clip for the Anthemic “7:30”
Lil Durk’s OTF Label Shares the Melodic Only The Family Involved Vol. 1 Group Mixtape
Lil Durk Gathers His OTF Crew, Announces Only The Family Involved Vol. 1 Mixtape