The Columbus rapper's new album is out digitally on Saturday

On new album Root of Evol (North City Music Group), rapper L.O.O.T. surveys a year defined by civil unrest, viral pandemics and government corruption, delivering his verses atop a dense musical tapestry courtesy producer Jack “Tha Audio Unit” Burton that mirrors these chaotic times.

“Don’t trust the government, judge or the lawyer,” the MC spits on “Panama Red,” setting a tone for authoritative distrust that carries throughout the full length, which releases digitally on Saturday, Oct. 30. These system-admonishing tracks are set alongside more personal turns such as “Pain,” where L.O.O.T. incorporates aspects of his own autobiography, as well as stories culled from friends and family members, to create a searing portrait of the tear-streaked moments that can shape one’s character.

“I wanted them to feel my pain. … I wanted to talk about my own experiences, as well as the experiences that the world is going through, with Black Lives Matter and all of this corruption we see everywhere,” said L.O.O.T. whose stage name stands for Living Off of Truth. “I wanted to paint a picture of what we’re going through right now.”

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L.O.O.T. and Burton started work on the album roughly 10 months ago, leaning into a series of funky, frenetic, airless beats through which the rapper cuts a forceful path, wielding his words like a machete in thick brush. “I like to muscle my way, man, just kind of clearing it out,” he said, and laughed. 

While most of the album was written before the pandemic, later songs make reference to COVID-19, with “Icebox” and “Tony Miceli” playing like flip sides of the corona coin. On the former, a playful ode to exotic dancers put out of work by government shutdowns, the rapper builds a track around mindless Instagram scrolling, while parts of the latter dwell more seriously on the sense of isolation that has defined recent months. “Don’t have many friends/Circle got smaller,” L.O.O.T. raps, going on to decline a handshake a few bars later, explaining, “[I’m] taking precautions so virus don’t expand.”

When the pandemic hit, L.O.O.T. was preparing to launch his own trucking business, a venture he has since scrapped. At the same time, he’s tried to embrace the added time off as a net positive, dedicating the freed hours to his musical pursuits, which have also included helping launch the new local label North City Music Group, of which he serves as president.

“The pandemic has had different effects on different people, and my heart goes out to anyone [adversely affected],” the rapper said. “But if anything it helped me, because if it wasn’t for the pandemic, I would have been at work, and I would have had to schedule certain days to be in the studio. But, with me not working, I had all the free time in the world, so I took advantage of it to create.”

L.O.O.T. grew up in a music-loving Columbus family, and his father would often spin artists like Teddy Pendergrass, Diana Ross and the Temptations. At the same time, L.O.O.T. said his father could be strict, which is part of what initially led him to writing. “Him being as strict as he was, that pushed me to the pen and paper to write about my problems,” said the rapper, who had long nurtured a fascination with language that exhibited itself in his childhood habit of reading the dictionary in his downtime. “I’d write about my feelings: 'Why can’t I do this? Why can’t I do that?'”

By age 13, this writing had progressed to poetry, much of it of the teenage love variety, transferring to music once L.O.O.T. discovered rappers such as Method Man and Redman at age 15. Initially, the teenager tended toward verses that he now describes as a sort of role play, a trait he abandoned after connecting with longtime friend and new labelmate P.A. Flex in the mid-2000s.

“I would talk about a lot of street stuff at first, but when I got around Flex, he balanced me, he leveled me out,” L.O.O.T. said. “I was watching other people rap, and making music with other people, and it was like, ‘That’s not true.' You know what I’m saying?

"Basically, now, I’m living off of truth. I’m not going to say I’m riding in a Maybach; I can’t afford a Maybach. I’m not going to try and fit in like I’m living that life, because I’m not. I just went with my own ways, man, and being around good folks who believe in me and want me to succeed, it pushed me to work harder. And so here we are, and I’m still living off of truth.”