Drakeo The Ruler's career as a rap superstar might be over before it even begins.

On Jan. 6, the 24-year-old South Central, L.A.-based artist was arrested for possession of a firearm by a felon. Two months later, the rapper was charged with one count of first-degree murder, five counts of attempted murder and one count of conspiracy to commit a felony.

The added charges stem from allegations that the Stinc Team member conspired to have fellow L.A. artist RJMRLa murdered at a Carson, Calif. warehouse party on Dec. 10, 2016. The L.A. District Attorney alleged that Drakeo provided guns for Jaiden Boyd and Mikell Buchanan in the hopes that they would execute RJ. However, the rapper never showed up to the event, and a 24-year-old alleged gang member named Davion Gregory was killed instead.

Now, Drakeo, born name Darrell Caldwell, could be facing life in prison. For his part, the rapper, who unloaded his acclaimed Cold Devil mixtape just weeks before his arrest in January, maintains his innocence—and a belief that the cause of his imprisonment can be traced back to a nasty case of saltiness.

"They know I didn't do it," the rapper tells XXL in a phone call from behind the walls of L.A.'s Men's Central Jail. "I think they just wanna hold me. They see what I was becoming." It was hard not to.

Since dropping nearly six months ago, Cold Devil has been streamed more than 11 million times on SoundCloud. On the project, Drakeo dons an icy flow as he reminisces on old stick-up stories with seemingly zero remorse.

After entering Men's Central, Drakeo has spent his time reading, writing raps and hitting the gym. He's also hopped on the phone with folks like Nipsey Hu$$le, Shy Glizzy, Detroit's Eastside Peezy and Lil Yachty, who teased a remix of Drakeo's "Flu Flamming" a few months back.

With the pre-trial for his conspiracy charges set to begin on June 28, there's no telling when, if ever, Drakeo will be set free. If he is released, though, he says he wants to collab with Migos, Lil Baby, Gunna and Skooly.

Forced to witness his growing buzz from the confines of a jail cell, Drakeo can only experience his success from a distance. His story is a familiar one. For years, the blossoming careers of countless rap artists have been imperiled by the legal system—with some instances being more deserving than others.

Meek Mill is the latest rapper to be embroiled in a high-profile legal case. Just over a month ago, he was released from jail after being sentenced to two years in prison for probation violation due to popping a wheelie on the streets of New York City. The original probation stems from a weapons and drugs case he caught nearly a decade ago.

"I think they're jealous because [we] make more money than them," Drakeo affirms when asked about the treatment he feels he and Meek have received from the law. "They be mad. My situation and [Meek Mill's] situation is a little different, though."

Despite facing a lengthy prison sentence, Drakeo carries a playful air of invincibility. "I'm like John Gotti in this muthafucka," he says before letting out a wild laugh. Maybe it's the mythologizing of rapping ex-convicts that gives him comfort. Maybe it's just Drakeo being Drakeo. Regardless of the reason, the rapper holds his head high with the belief that nothing can stop him from reaching new levels of success—not even the police he believes are out to do so.

"They really be thinking they stopping it when they do that," Drakeo offers. "But all they do is make you go up even more."

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