If there is any more solid indicator of surefire rap success than the Drake co-sign, it hasn’t been invented yet. Say what you want about his penchant for wave-riding, the man has an undeniable ear for talent.
The latest recipient of his blessing is Lil Baby — not to be confused with the co-founder of Cash Money Records. A product of Atlanta trap rap label Quality Control Records, he is a part of the second wave of QC’s attempted rap game takeover after the successful early returns of labelmates Lil Yachty and Migos.
His collaboration with Drake, “Yes Indeed,” is already burning up the charts, introducing him to an entirely new faction of fans. The QC touch is apparent in the calculated release of the song, formerly known as “Pikachu,” just days ahead of the launch date of Lil Baby’s latest mixtape, Harder Than Ever.
Harder Than Ever is the third in a series, following 2017’s Harder Than Hard and Too Hard. For the plethora of new fans following the cold glare of Drake’s shared spotlight, it serves as a worthwhile introduction to Lil Baby, his Southside Atlanta ethos and his measured drawl. For everyone else, it’s a decent, but over-long addition to his expanding catalog that relies a little too heavily on its guest stars to allow him to truly shine.
It’s apparent from the mixtape’s “Intro” that Lil Baby both fits in with Quality Control’s collection of trap adherents and stands out as unique at the same time. His flow is less choppy, more uniform than the staccato utterances of Migos’ Offset, Quavo, and Takeoff, and obviously more practiced than Yachty’s. The rhymes tumble out of his mouth one after another like a bubble gun, but evenly, so that his voice becomes almost as hypnotic as the beats he raps over.
The majority of the songs clock in at around three minutes, fitting in with the general trend of rap music lately. The unfortunate side effect of this is a feeling like Lil Baby, who is most decidedly not a so-called “mumble rapper” and clearly has the skills for more, seems disinterested in constructing songs so much as getting out ideas for songs.
Tracks like “Leaked,” “Southside,” and the aforementioned “Yes Indeed” seem unfinished, almost as if Lil Baby decided they were done as soon as he laid his verses and moved on to other endeavors. It lends something like an air of authenticity to his drug tales — after all, who has time for the studio when there’s so much money to be made off the streets?