King Von Credit: Courtesy of Audible Treats

Sharp songwriting and bombastic delivery have made King Von one of fastest-rising stars in drill, the pummeling hip-hop subgenre born in Chicago. Born Dayvon Bennett, the 25-year-old rapper grew up in Englewood, and he’s been filling his verses with crime-fiction narratives at least since his breakout single, 2018’s “Crazy Story.” As he told Genius in a video this spring, he draws on urban novels and on his own experiences for his lyrics—his history of legal trouble includes arrests for firearm possession and attempted murder (he was acquitted of the latter after spending three and a half years in Cook County Jail). Von’s said he’s used his time while incarcerated (including a recent house arrest in Atlanta for a pending case involving Only the Family label boss and codefendant Lil Durk) to refine his street-rap storytelling. On “Took Her to the O,” a single from the new Levon James, Von plans to bring a date to O Block, the notoriously violent stretch of South King Drive (which Von compared to “a mini resort” in that Genius video because of the fun he’d have with his friends there). He’s waiting in his car outside her house, having doubled back to let her pick up her purse, when a stranger shows up and the confrontation spirals into a shooting. The date is unfazed, since the victim is from a different block, and Von drives off impressed. Von wrote the song a cappella while in jail, and producer Chopsquad structured the instrumental around it, a reversal of Von’s usual process. Levon James expands on the sonic palette of Von’s 2019 full-length debut, Grandson Vol. 1, which stays close to the classic drill sound, combining blown-out beats with blunt-force effects. The beat for “Block,” by superproducer Mike Will Made-It, pairs trap 808s with chimes that cut to the bone like winter wind. The synths on the G Herbo collaboration “On Yo Ass” sound like the ghosts from Super Mario 64 are chasing Von, only to turn invisible when he turns to face them—but the boom in his boasts makes it clear they won’t catch him.   v