The revolution taking place across the U.S. following the recent deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor has just found itself an unlikely spokesperson: Atlanta rookie-ish rap star Lil Baby.
The powerful song and visual “The Bigger Picture” is a protest anthem that manages to strike even more poignantly by not inherently branding itself as such. Instead, the four-minute song sees the multi-platinum ATLien seamlessly articulating the frustration, confusion, and innate call to stand up for something much bigger than himself.
He’s also quite clear about what this is and isn’t. What this isn’t is a run of the hit piece on law enforcement. He notably references the widespread sentiment that all police officers are racist and oppressive (“All Cops Are Bastards” or ACAB), which has become a global talking point.
“Corrupted police been the problem where I’m from, but I’d be lying if I said it was all of them,” he raps — acknowledging that not all cops are inherently corrupt. Illustrating this is this one particularly moving moment in the video when a black female police officer hugs a little boy.
Lil Baby even acknowledges the human nature of many officers. The same ones that many of us have seen in videos crying in the face of protestors. The ones who are doing a job they were taught and directed to do.
However, as the song goes on to demonstrate, It’s not just about the police but the systems in place that put entire sects of the population into environments shaped to lead them down specific paths. It’s also about the authoritative forces of individuals trained to keep the peace in these environments that more often than not end up inciting fear in the very population they’re sworn to protect.
The song instantly garnered acclaimed amongst the 25-year-old’s elder peers, including Meek Mill, who wanted to ensure Baby received his flowers no matter what by christening him a “legend” after just a few years of activity.
Lil Baby going legend right in front of our eyes!
— Meek Mill (@MeekMill) June 12, 2020
While Lil Baby has long positioned himself as a reflection of this very environment, he likely hasn’t (in the past) been an MC that casual listeners associated with overt lyrical “wokeness” — and it’s something of which he’s acutely aware. “I can’t lie like I don’t rap about killing and dope, but I’m telling my youngins to vote/I did what I did ’cause I didn’t have no choice or no hope,” he raps to curb anyone with the ignorance to attempt to assassinate his voice.
Still, there’s a sense of hesitation amid his unwavering support and dedication to the Black Lives Matter movement. “Knowledge is power; I swear I’m a witness, I know that I’m gifted … I won’t go too deep because I’m scared they’ll get me. Ain’t scared to admit it, some shit I can’t mention, It’s people who can, well, here’s the chance,” he raps. While he makes it clear that he’s more than willing to take a stand for what he believes in, this song is ultimately a beacon to others to take actions.
Beyond voting, there are no answers, no clear path to the light at the end of the tunnel and no declaration of any sort. Really, how could there be? Change isn’t overnight at this magnitude, and whether it stays trending among those who can comfortably move on within a system that shines more favorably on their race or social status remains to be seen.
This song isn’t meant to incite riots, burn down institutions or lead a unified chant of “fuck the police.” For perspective, a confrontation with a racist white man landed him in prison for two years, so it could be excused if a more aggressive approach was taken — but it’s quite the contrary. This is Lil Baby venting and in its concise and clear format, it’s both empowering and moving.
“The Bigger Picture” is simultaneously the sobering deep breath and fire-starting rally for change Hip Hop needed at this exact moment. He may not be the leader of the NWO, but he’s a spark that could force a new generation of voices to shift their platforms away from various isms to focus on more pressing matters at hand.
According to Lil Baby’s Instagram, all proceeds from the song are being spread across multiple organizations and causes: The National Association of Black Journalists Breonna Taylor’s Attorney, The Bail Project and Black Lives Matter.