Lil Baby has had a pretty unorthodox and sudden path to stardom. The recently turned 22-year-old never wanted to be a rapper, but grew up in the same neighborhood as Young Thug and Quality Control co-head Pierre “Pee” Thomas.
Pee and Coach K, the other half of the Quality Control brain trust, have known Lil Baby, who was always hanging around the studio with their roster of Atlanta artists, since he was a teenager.
Joe Coscarelli wrote for The New York Times that Pee and Coach K saw a specific profile and skill-set that seemed perfect for the mic, despite never hearing the kid spit a bar:
“[Coach K and Pee] have known Lil Baby since he was a charismatic teenager who was respected around town for his gambling prowess, and they had long encouraged him to pursue a career in music.”
Lil Baby was uninterested at first, but after various legal issues saw him going in and out of prison, in February of this year Baby decided to get in the booth.
His first project, Perfect Timing, came out in April with features from some members of Atlanta hip-hop royalty, like Young Scooter and Young Thug, as well as up and comers Lil Yachty and Duke.
While the project and Lil Baby’s bars were still pretty raw, the energy on Perfect Timing was palpable.
It was clear on Perfect Timing that Lil Baby has plenty to say, the emotion and potential of this artist was plain to see.
In July, Baby dropped his second project, Harder Than Hard, including the infectious “My Dawg”, the song that solidified Lil Baby as an artist to watch out for.
“My Dawg”, with its bouncy beat and Lil Baby’s lightly autotuned sing-rapping, immediately became a street anthem, vaulting Lil Baby into one of the hottest names in the ATL hip-hop scene.
The improvement from Perfect Timing to Harder Than Hard was wild. Lil Baby was leveling up before our eyes in the span of a couple months.
This was clearly the product of a determined work ethic, something Lil Baby learned from hanging in the studio with artists like Young Thug and Migos.
Baby told MTV last month he learned his work ethic and skills from these artists:
“Naturally just me being in the studio I guess. Like I just picked [it] up. I been in the studio with Migos for weeks and weeks and Thug and weeks and weeks, not me rapping just hanging. But it’s time where it just be me and them, so instead of us kicking it and talking, I’m ready to just sit down while they working.”
After releasing a collaborative tape with childhood friend Marlo titled 2 the Hard Way, Baby dropped another solo project, Too Hard, a complete album, signaling Lil Baby as a legitimate force in the rap game.
On “All Of A Sudden” with Moneybagg Yo, Lil Baby relishes in his meteoric glo up and newfound riches. It’s as fun and hard of a track as you’ll hear.
“Best Of Me”, a more down-tempo, contemplative track, recalls some of the ills of Lil Baby’s previous occupation before picking up the mic. He remembers a specific violent altercation that almost turned deadly.
“The n**** shouldn’t did what he did
I’m just glad a n**** still here for all the stupid shit that we did
Gotta be here for my kid
Gotta watch my son get big
Everything I say is no lie, I’m just glad the kid didn’t die”
On “Best Of Me”, Lil Baby appears to have put his past behind him, or at least has a certain desire to, but it hasn’t been easy to extricate himself from the streets.
He told Coscarelli of NYT that it’s not as easy as it seems to move away from all he’s ever known:
“It sounds like, ‘O.K., duh, go do that.’ But it’s hard to transition. I’ve been rapping for six months, but I’ve been in the streets heavy for like 12 years straight.” He pulled out his phone and scrolled through the missed calls — old friends luring him back.”
But the influence of the Quality Control executives, specifically Pee, who is intimately familiar with what Lil Baby is coming from, has helped guide the young artist. Lil Baby referred to Pee as a “police-dad, but in a good way.”
And through Pee and Coach K’s guidance, Lil baby is starting to understand what he needs to do to capitalize on his clear talent:
“I’m starting to build this patience. God’s got something else for me. I need to be with Pee, because ain’t no telling what’s going on in the hood right now, what I could be going into. I look at Pee as a savior.”
On “To The Top”, the intro track off Too Hard, Lil Baby verbalizes his sudden rise perfectly:
“Last year I was sittin’ in the cage
This year I’m goin’ all the way”
If Lil Baby can keep his focus, there’s no stopping QC’s most recent artist to blow.