ATLANTA UNTRAPPED: Lil Baby is Quality Control’s next big star
‘Harder Than Ever’ isn’t extraordinary, but the Atlanta rapper is destined for success
There’s nothing particularly extraordinary or novel about Lil Baby but he’s not exactly boring either. He just is.
On his debut album Harder Than Ever southwest Atlanta the rapper presents his music in a matter of fact style. Either you like it or you don’t. “Real dope boy I ain’t nothing like the weirdos,” he raps on the album’s opener, “Intro.” It’s refreshing to see a rapper delivering rhymes without the flash. We’re in an era where eccentricity sells. But there’s something strangely rebellious about Lil Baby’s nonchalant, autotuned delivery.
Born Dominique Jones, Lil Baby is still pretty early in his career and there’s certainly promise in his artistry. The 23-year-old Quality Control signee has only been rapping for a little more than a year, releasing four mixtapes ahead of his label debut earlier this month.
On Harder Than Ever, released in May, the newcomer teamed up with everyone from Drake to Atlanta’s Gunna and fellow QC artist Offset. On “Yes Indeed,” the Drake collaboration, Lil Baby delivers one of the catchiest hooks of the project, as well as one of the most hilariously absurd lyrics (“wah wah wah, bitch I’m the baby”).
On the hook for “Cash,” he mimics the melodic styling of his friend, Young Thug. On other songs, he displays a vulnerability that helps fans understand his motivations as a new artist.
On the Young Thug-assisted “Right Now,” he raps “I’ve been having nightmares about going back to jail, so I wake up. Drankin' all this lean, poppin' Adderall so I can stay up.” On “Leaked,” he reflects on his relationship with a love interest (“How you gone be in your feelings when I’m in my feelings? We both can’t be in our feelings”).
Quay Global, the young producer who has worked with rappers such as Young Thug and Migos, lands several placements on this project, and his beats are one of the most compelling things about Harder Than Ever. In an interview in January, the Atlanta producer revealed his dedication to music. “I don’t even have a bed. I sleep on a futon. My room is a full blown studio,” he said. “I’m in the studio 24 hours a day."
Quay Global was the producer behind “My Dawg,” the hit single that was released months into Lil Baby’s career as a rapper last year. Over a repetitive keyboard melody, the rapper, who had recently been released from a two year stint in prison, talks about loyalty before the simple but effective hook (“That’s my dawg fa sho. That’s my dawg.”) comes in.
In a Genius annotation for the song, Lil Baby says “I don’t have a writing process. I just go in the booth and say something and leave. Just working and punch in.”
His work style and his dedication to loyalty was shown again on another earlier release, “Freestyle.” This laid-back style will either be to the rapper’s advantage or lead to his downfall. But, with the powerful Quality Control brand behind him and Lil Baby’s determination to make a name for himself in a new world, it’ll likely be the former rather than the latter.
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