July 2nd ‘86; oh shit, it had to be.
Two days before the 210th birthday of our great nation, a boy named Kyle Hargrove was brought into this world. These past twenty-three years and change haven’t been the best to him, with his path to adulthood paved with divorce, drugs, and depression. I don’t know Kyle personally, so all of the intimate details of his past have come to me through his music as Alex Ludovico. Packed with a buoyant flow, a reference base wider than the vast majority of young rappers in the game today, and a willingness to display his own flaws and vulnerability, I knew this kid was special. When I heard the playback from our first collaboration, “A Round of Anger”, I was slack-jawed. Ludo came through with more intensity than the blaring horns smeared all over the track, his music smarts in overdrive, shouting out the band I sampled in the first verse. After listening to “A Round of Anger” for an hour straight, I came up with the idea for us to collaborate on an entire mixtape. I was determined to draw a classic out of him.
Our mixtape, Winning/Losing, finds Ludo using his elastic flow over nineteen beats to clear his cluttered mind, touching on everything from his depression, to his willingness to put everything into music, to autotuned farts. Some may derisively refer to Winning/Losing as “emo-rap”, but Alex doesn’t victimize himself. This is more of an honest account of a fiercely intelligent lyricist on the cusp of his mid-20s. That is, if he chooses to live long enough to make it there.
Winning/Losing is about winning and losing. It’s about achieving goals, winning. It’s about cleaning up nosebleeds after trying to cope with a breakup, losing. It’s about selling your soul to the devil in order to be the best. There is a reason why there are beats from the dearly-departed James Dewitt Yancey are sprinkled all over this release. Death hovers over almost every track, whether it’s Alex’s belief that God does not exist, his own suicide fantasies, or the scary image of one of his characters slapping down their pregnant girlfriend and lying down on the floor with her. To coin the title of one of Ludo’s all-time favorite records, death is certain.
If Kyle does indeed try to go out “at 27 like the legends”, it’s now my purpose to make sure he leaves a body of work behind that showcases his brilliance as an MC, that showcases his heart, that showcases his gift to bare it all, to shed the façade of the rap star and do what most rap stars fail to do: Keep it real. Winning/Losing is the start of this body of work. We hope you enjoy it.