I’ve been frustrated with Lil Baby lately. Coming off of the gargantuan success of his 2020 album My Turn, the young Atlanta rap star seemed like he could go anywhere. Understandably, Lil Baby used some of his newfound clout to get himself paid; that’s the only explanation for the existence of the Bee Gees-interpolating DJ Khaled/Drake collab “Staying Alive” or the Budweiser-sponsored, Tears For Fears-sampling World Cup song “The World Is Yours To Take.” That kind of thing is obnoxious and artistically bankrupt, but I understand it. What I didn’t understand was the way Baby kept releasing limp, checked-out singles like “Detox” and “Heyy.” But now that Lil Baby’s album is here, I think I get it.
Maybe Lil Baby just isn’t a singles artist. He’s made some great hits, but those songs are exceptions. Lil Baby has a comfort zone, and that comfort zone can be perfectly effective at album-length. It’s Only Me, Baby’s new album, mostly works as intense, bass-heavy mood music. Lil Baby works best when you let him establish a vibe and just zone out to his pain-wracked, Auto-Tune-scrambled voice for an hour at a time.
I don’t know if It’s Only Me has hits, and I have to imagine that it won’t have the same kind of impact as My Turn. But I’m on my first listen of It’s Only Me, and this album is working. It’s all head-clouded anxiety and ghostly melody, and Baby is only working with guests who are fully in his zone: Future, Jeremih, Nardo Wick, EST Gee, Pooh Shiesty, Young Thug, Fridayy, Rylo Rodriguez. He’s not chasing hits. Instead, he’s exploring the different sides of his own sensibility. It’s worth hearing, and you can hear it below.
It’s Only Me is out now on Quality Control/Motown.