Lil Baby stole the show in 2020 and his sophomore album, My Turn is complete proof of that. The project grew to be the best-selling album of the year thanks to efforts like “We Paid” with 42 Dugg and “Sum 2 Prove,” and helped push the Atlanta rapper into a new tier among hip-hop acts. However, the pandemic-riddled year wasn’t a bright spot for Baby only. Nearly a thousand miles northwest, Chicago native Lil Durk also elevated his artistry. Throughout 2020, he dropped two projects, Just Cause Y’all Waited 2 and The Voice, with both debuting at No. 2 on the album charts, a career-high for him.
With the rappers’ respective success came a new height of popularity and more eyes on them. While some prefer to take advantage of the new attention for their benefit, Baby and Durk — who hatched some chemistry of their own through frequent collaborations — decided to make the most of their increased status for their newly-released album, Voice Of The Heroes. Just like the last however many collaborative hip-hop albums we’ve received over the past decade, the project looked to answer one question: Was it worth the hype?
Yes, but not by a significant margin. The thing with hip-hop joint albums over the past decade is most of them are either underwhelming or age poorly. Huncho Jack is an example of the former while Drake and Future’s What A Time To Be Alive — minus a few highlight tracks — fits the shoe of the latter. Voice Of The Heroes sits in the middle of these. It wasn’t a disappointment nor will it age poorly. The project did what it needed to in highlighting the rappers’ best talents while inviting each other to their respective worlds to experience it and try a hand at thriving in it.
Examples of this arrive fairly often throughout Voice Of The Heroes. “Who I Want” sees both rappers tell their side of a “hustle and love” story with production that allows Durk’s laxed and woozy bars to be palatable with Baby’s grittier approach to the subject. The same occurs on the project’s title track, which doubles as the intro to the album. “Voice Of The Heroes” creates a space for both Durk and Baby that allows them to deliver a melodic sermon about life’s past and current struggles, the things they’ve overcome along the way, and their legacy that takes shape through each release. While there are songs that certainly complement both rappers, there are others that see one of them at an advantage.
“Medical” carries a piano melody that would’ve made the song ideal for placement on Just Cause Y’all Waited 2 and Durk shines because of it. Elsewhere, “Man Of My Word” and “How It Feels” sound like they were cut from the cloth of Baby’s My Turn fabric and released with slight alterations. “That’s Facts” is by far the best song on Voice Of The Heroes and it’s a jacket that fits Baby extremely well, but let it be known that Durk slides with ease on the track as well. Lastly, Durk treats his supporters to a pair of “No Auto Durk” offerings — which finds him rapping without his trademark autotune filter — through his verses on “Still Runnin” and “Lying.”
Lil Baby and Lil Durk’s project could have been a slimmer release. Outside of their excellent collaboration with Rod Wave on “Rich Off Pain,” the last third of the album is a bit of a drag that makes the energetic and diverse offerings that arrive before it feels like a distant memory. While today’s streaming world welcomes lengthy projects for the sake of a boost in sales, this writer will rarely be fond of projects that push past the 40-45 minute duration mark. This isn’t to say that the music in that section is bad, but in almost all cases, even the best things in life get tiring after a while.
Voice Of The Heroes is not the career-altering release that Baby and Durk’s respective 2020 projects put forth, but that wasn’t the expectation set by the rappers or their fans before it was released. The project delivers a satisfactory showcase in collaboration between two of this generation’s best rappers. Just like Future and Young Thug did when they shared Super Slimey in 2017, Lil Baby and Lil Durk recognized the potential in joining forces at the relative heights of their careers. Unlike the Atlanta rappers’ effort, Voice Of The Heroes is much closer in proximity to Baby and Durk’s best work. While this project isn’t heroic in any sense, Voice Of The Heroes is certainly better suited to save the day than most of the joint hip-hop albums we’ve received in recent years.
Voice Of The Heroes is out now via Quality Control/Alamo/Motown. Get it here.