Initially, Lil Baby did not want to be a rapper. Speaking to the New York Times in 2017, a then 21-year-old Baby admitted he’d “rather be in the hood.” But since then, Baby has changed his tune, revealing in a follow-up interview with the Times this year that he did not “miss his old life at all,” a sentiment that seems obvious when you look at his output.
In just three years, Baby has put out eight projects, a number that would even impress Lil B. It’s clear he’s put all his attention into rap: no longer longing for the thrill of the streets. This newfound focus comes out in his latest release My Turn, an album showcasing his improved technical skills and songwriting despite some half-baked ideas.
On his second studio album under the Quality Control umbrella, the now 25-year-old Baby refines his craft, delivering a mix of pop-rap destined to flood Spotify’s RapCaviar playlist mixed in with some cutting explorations reminiscing on the life he once didn’t want to leave behind.
There’s this sense of paranoia in some of Baby’s raps, as if he’ll quickly be usurped for the next trendy rapper. When he brags about rollin’ up in a new McLaren to his hood on “How,” there’s no joy in his voice. He sounds cold, detached and alert that at any moment, all he’s worked for could be taken away from him.
Baby gets in his bag a few times during this record but doesn’t consistently stay there. “Live Off My Closet,” featuring Future at double the speed, has Baby bouncing on Twysted Genius’ springy 808s, dropping an atom bomb flex about getting so bored he might just buy the chick he’s fucking with a hair salon.
There are a couple of missteps like the redundant slurring rags-to-riches story “Can’t Explain” and the uneven throwaway “Same Thing,” where Baby’s flow clashes with Tay Keith’s production. The back half of the original LP is where things begin to sputter off course. It’s evident by the time his mediocre Queen & Slim cut “Catch The Sun” comes on; he’s run out of ideas. Songs like “Consistent” and the aptly-titled “Forget That,” featuring a bland Rylo Rodriguez, offer nothing worth remembering.
Originally, the project ending on such a lackluster streak left a bitter taste, but the added six tracks on the deluxe version remedies this, coming through with more bangers best heard through a cracked iPhone screen.
“Social Distancing” doesn’t feel like an add on — more so an epic opener — with its ethereal strings and keys. Baby uses the circumstances of quarantine to drop metaphors for days, the best coming when he compares his social distancing to being better than most of the rappers in the game.
The head nods continue on “All In” and “Low Down,” but it’s “Humble” that makes the most impact. The somber ballad samples Lori Perry’s iconic “Up Against The Wind” off the Set It Off soundtrack, which Baby uses to give off this “me against the world, back against the wall” vibe. The track plays out like Baby is writing a stream of consciousness in a composition notebook as he ponders about the way he’d see women if he had a daughter, how his friend tried to set him up, and if his girl meant it when she said she shouldn’t have kept his child.
The deluxe tracks even give prior guests a mulligan. 42 Dugg redeems his toothless feature on the dull “Grace,” with a much more dynamic appearance on “We Paid.” Baby and Dugg showcase superb chemistry — taking turns dunking on their opps like Jordan and Pippen (Call Gunna up for the next collab and he’d be Rodman).
My Turn has proven Baby’s hit-making competence — as evidenced by his Billboard Hot 100 Chart success — and while he doesn’t quite live up to the lofty aspirations his album title suggests, he still proves he’s in the mix to become a torch-bearer for the future of mainstream rap.