Music

Lil Baby Steps Up To Big Leagues With The Eye-Opening ‘My Turn’

Lil Baby is one of the breakout stars of his era. With My Turn, he proves that designation apt, while leaving plenty of room to grow as an artist. He makes strides as both a rapper and a songwriter, continues to display the same compelling charm that garnered him the coveted Drake co-sign and allowed him to outlive it, and carries the vast majority of the album’s lengthy runtime through sheer force of personality. My Turn is a solid followup to his Quality Control debut, Harder Than Ever, and a sign that he may have what it takes to turn the star potential he flashed there into an extensive run.

After dropping his major-label debut in 2018, Baby quickly followed up toward the end of the same year with Drip Harder, a joint album with Gunna, as well as a standalone mixtape called Street Gossip, so it’s no wonder he took most of 2019 off. However, it seemed he was well aware of the expectations that would be assigned his next album, as evidenced by the title of “Sum 2 Prove,” an assertive mission statement that highlights both Baby’s rough upbringing and the high hopes fans held for his sophomore album.

Fortunately for those fans, their hopes are justified from the jump as he introduces listeners to his polished flow and triumphant but humble disposition for the album on “Get Ugly,” then thoroughly outshines partner-in-rhyme Gunna on “Heatin Up.” Though Lil Baby was always nice with the bars, it’s probably also fair to say he’s one of the more underrated young lyricists out right now. That status is likely to change when listeners catch outstanding quips like “Big dripper, stand up in the ocean” from “Heatin Up” or “I done put my heart inside a box and tried to sell it to ’em” on “Hurtin.” The fact he holds his own alongside known beat killers like Lil Wayne and draws energy from electric performances from Future (“Live Off My Closet”) and Lil Uzi Vert (“Commercial”) helps.

Beat-wise, the album improves on the formula set up by Harder Than Ever and makes more of an effort to differentiate and balance the sounds over the course of the 20-track setlist. “Woah” balances the jittery moodiness of the paranoid “Grace” and the chattering, defiant “Live Off My Closet,” while “Emotionally Scarred” and “Solid” throw it back to mid-2000s era proto-trap, giving Lil Baby more support for his bars. It’s a wise choice; existing as he does between the forceful complexity of early T.I. and the slippery melodizing of latter-day Young Thug, the sturdier beats anchor his flow and give him a foil for whichever tack he takes, bolstering the crooning and giving the harder raps something to bounce off of. Baby even goes full Memphis crunk with the DJ Paul-produced “Gang Signs,” providing more variety and addressing one of the primary complaints of his older material.

The major tweak that could have improved My Turn from simply a solid entry into Lil Baby’s growing catalog to a defining moment thereof is editing. After seemingly reeling in the decadence of 2018 with a run of shorter projects last year, the rap game has been experiencing something of a reversion to the glut of oversized projects in 2020, with Lil Baby joining Eminem, Lil Wayne, and Royce Da 5’9 in putting out a 20-song album that could have been about six songs shorter. Ironically, My Turn flips the usual complaint with such lengthy releases, dragging a bit out of the gate before accelerating to full speed about six songs in.

Tracks that could have been cut include “How,” with its dirge-y beat wrong-footing the album early, and “Catch The Sun,” which already had its place on the Queen & Slim soundtrack and was likely added to juice streaming numbers — a cheat that Lil Baby doesn’t need at this point in his career. After standing out alongside established stars like Drake and Migos, distinguishing himself from fellow emerging star Gunna, and earning a spot alongside Gunna on a rumored sequel to Future and Young Thug’s Super Slimey, Lil Baby is practically a hit away from being an utter supernova.

For most of his latest album, the 25-year-old rapper proves as much. While he doesn’t quite secure that legacy-solidifying hit here, he does prove himself to be quite capable of the sort of consistency that leads to longer, right-at-radar-level careers. He even calls himself “Consistent” toward the end of the 20-song set, showing a level of self-awareness and composure that few other rappers in his position have possessed — let alone utilized. With just a little more of it, Lil Baby might find himself taking the reins from the artists he once called mentors and now calls peers. It may not be his turn just yet, but it looks like it may very well be in no time at all.

My Turn is out now on Quality Control Music/Motown Records. Get it here.

Some artists covered here are Warner Music artists. Uproxx is an independent subsidiary of Warner Music Group.

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