If you were a hardcore hip-hop fan waking up from a 20-year coma, rap music in 2019 would be a pretty bewildering experience. After you were brought up to speed on social media and streaming, you’d probably think that there had been a sudden boom in child rappers while you were out because it seems like seemingly every third rapper is now named some variation of “Baby” these days.
Much like previous eras of hip-hop, which saw naming trends like adding “Cool,” “Grandmaster,” “Lil,” “MC,” or more recently, “Doll” to rappers’ stage names, it appears the latest fad in mic monikers is calling yourself some form of “Baby.” While it’s not exactly a new phenomenon — Babies Bash, Blak, and D spring to mind here, among others — it’s only now that hip-hop has seen such a confluence of rappers trading on childlike nicknames.
Before I get into it, I’ll admit: The idea for this list was partially inspired by a webcomic by creator Mahntay, who operates the Instagram page @rlecomic, lampooning hip-hop culture and public figures. You can see that comic below, but you may note that while MT stops at just three examples, we’ve gone all the way in the concept, unearthing a treasure trove of emerging artists who all share a similar title.
You may also notice that a couple of names are missing; with all due respect to Baby Bash and Big Baby DRAM, they and the other missing names are all relatively well-established figures and we wanted the focus here to be on explaining the newer talents to crop up within the past few years — with the exception of Brian “Baby” Williams, aka Birdman, the OG “Baby” in the rap game. He just happens to be undergoing a bit of a career resurgence along with his former Cash Money Records employee Juvenile, so there might be a few younger listeners out there looking for a refresher.
Remember though, despite all appearances, none of the below mentioned rappers are actually babies. Babies would be terrible rappers. Except this one; he’s cool.
The aforementioned OG Baby in the rap game, Brian Williams is the New Orleans-based, 50-year-old co-founder of Cash Money Records, who is almost as notorious for his shady business dealings as he is for his bars. He’s put in work in the rap game though; his discography includes five solo albums, another five collaborative albums (one of which, Just Another Gangsta with Juvenile, was released just weeks ago), and another five albums as a member of Big Tymers, his duo with producer Mannie Fresh. While he insists he’s more gangster than rapper, he’s put in enough time on the mic to be considered an expert by Malcolm Gladwell’s standards.
I batted this entry around a while before ultimately including it on the basis that despite some controversy regarding her origin and how seriously she actually takes this hip-hop thing, Baby Goth’s collaboration record suggests she wants to be accepted in hip-hop. Hailing from Arlington, Texas, this 21-year-old sugar trap crooner originally went by Bria Bueno before switching up her persona to a slightly racier, more over-the-top presentation and working with respected members of the hip-hop fraternity like Trippie Redd and Wiz Khalifa on her most recent, self-titled EP. Her heavy emo influences might have felt out-of-place once upon a time, but now that more rappers than ever are singing and shopping at Hot Topic, Baby Goth is a little less of an oddity.
Brittnee Moore is a Chattanooga, Tennessee native who’s been working her butt off independently as a 30-year-old, single mother of four children — two sets of twins, no less — and her raps operate in the well-traveled lane of foremothers like Gangsta Boo and Mia X. With a southern drawl that complements her sharp-tongued, empowerment rhymes and a flow that could chop enough wood for the winter, her colorful onstage attire and devil-may-care charisma have drawn a passionate fanbase. Those fans have been eagerly awaiting her promised debut album, Christine, since its announcement, but until then, she’s kept up a steady flow EPs to keep their appetites sated, including Muthaz Day 2 and 3, BbyShoe, Free Brittnee, and The Bastard Tape, Vol. 1, all in 2018.
27-year-old Jonathan Kirk went by Baby Jesus until late last year, when he made the switch to simply DaBaby and embraced his off-the-wall, humorous approach to surprisingly complex and thoughtful bars, and put out the absurdist music video for “Walker, Texas Ranger.” From there, everything looked up for the rapper from Charlotte, North Carolina, as his debut album, Baby On Baby, garnered plenty of attention, as did his viral “Baby On Baby Out Now Freestyle.” With a gift for knee-slapping, gut-checking punchlines, and a deft skill set undergirding the whole hilarious operation, DaBaby is one to watch — although you may want to keep an eye on the “Baby Sitter” too.
Lil Baby is the Quality Control Music-signed, Atlanta rapper who first tasted mainstream success last year with Drake’s co-sign on “Yes Indeed,” where he coined his infamous line: “Wah, wah, wah, b*tch, I’m Lil Baby.” As if two albums, Harder Than Ever and Street Gossip, weren’t enough to put his name on rap fans’ radars in 2018, he also released the well-received joint album Drip Harder with fellow ATL trap rap representative Gunna, landing at No. 4 on the <Billboard 200 chart and solidifying his status as a rising star.
Detroit’s Sada Baby seemingly came out of nowhere with “Bloxk Party” last year, outshining co-star Drego by sheer force of personality — and some pretty spiffy dance moves. Like DaBaby, Sada Baby embraces his sense of humor and his music often finds its appeal in the tension between his menacing threats and jovial ways in which they’re expressed. It’s hard to tell sometimes whether his smirk is a mirthful acknowledgment of his confident delivery and witty bars or a sinister snarl warning challengers of the danger in crossing him, but maybe that’s why his Bartier Bounty tape works… the danger is seductive, even if it doesn’t seem all that serious.
Saaheem Valdery from Atlanta was all of 19-years-old when he had his first brush with fame via his viral hit “Pull Up Wit Ah Stick” featuring Loso Loaded. Covered and remixed by a number of well-known artists, including T-Pain, Fetty Wap, and Wiz Khalifa, he was signed to Warner Bros. Records for a year before parting ways with the label to return to building his buzz the old-fashioned way. His February 3P single release contains more of the slippery flow and heavy bass that made “Pull Up Wit Ah Stick” so captivating, but he’ll need to prove he can maintain the mystique for a full project to demonstrate real staying power.
Yung Baby Tate
Dropping out the sky with her debut project Girls earlier this year, the 22-year-old Decatur, Georgia native appeared fully formed as an artist, boasting a wide array of talents and the self-confidence to carve out a significant chunk of the public’s attention with her fierce girl-power raps and relatable honesty. On Girls she executed the concept with polish and panache, sharing space on the album’s features with an all-female cast of other breakthrough standouts including Bbymutha, Kari Faux, Mulatto, and singer Baby Rose.