Lil Baby – “It’s Only Me” review

This is the 3rd full-length album from Atlanta rapper Lil Baby. Rising to stardom in 2018 off his debut album Harder Than Ever, his profile would gradually increase from there by following up with a collab project with Gunna entitled Drip Harder & his 4th solo mixtape Street Gossip. He then dropped the mediocre sophomore effort My Turn weeks before the world shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic but with Amazon Prime putting out a documentary a couple months back, Baby’s returning in the form of It’s Only Me.

“Real Spill” is a rubbery yet introspective trap opener about being in a completely different mindset now whereas “Stand on It” takes a more lavish route standing on literally every word that he says. Nardo Wick tags along for the underwhelming “Pop Out” spitting braggadocio accompanied by an uneventful beat, but then “Heyy” was a weak choice for a final single obnoxiously rubbing it in everyone’s faces how lit everyone is now.

Moving on to “California Breeze”, we have Baby over some sample-based trap production from Murda Beatz reflecting on watching a bitch turn sour on him leading into the stripped back “Perfect Timing”almost about keeping his guard up because of people fucking him over. Young Thug comes into the picture for the horn-laced “Never Hating” produced by Wheezy acknowledging that this shit not ending until they’re dead & gone, but then “Forever” comes through with a mediocre pop rap ballad.

“Not Finished” weaves some chimes into the fold talking about never being done while “In a Minute”samples “Pound Cake” by Drake & JAY-Z letting you in on the extravagant lifestyle that he lives. “Waterfall Flow” has a more shimmering quality to the instrumental talking about his girl wanting to be gang while the keyboard heavy “Everything” calls out someone for taking a piece of his heart & owing him it all.

Meanwhile on the Tay Keith-laced “From Now On”, the one & only Future joins Baby in a chaotic look at them dodging the feds while “Double Down” reveals how cautionary he can be over some pillowy trap production. Rylo Rodriguez’ verse & the generic beat throughout “Cost to Be Alive” don’t really do it for me although I admire the subject matter addressed while “Top Priority” dives into atmospheric turf thanks to DJ Champ talking about being the one that they all run up to & dissing DJ Akademiks the cornball for thinking he can’t be touched.

“Danger” returns to the pianos addressing someone he could’ve exposed while “Stop Playing” follows it up with a decent trap/R&B hybrid with some more romantic lyricism. “F.R. (For Real)” comes through with an otherworldly sound justifiably showing off that he’s earned all of his stripes while “Back & Forth” with EST. G finds the 2 over a mediocre instrumental talking about wanting to be fucked good.

The song “Shiest Talk” with Pooh Shiesty confesses that they’ve been “thuggin’ way before Tony put Trevor on a shit bag” over some keys & hi-hats while the penultimate track “No Fly Zone” acknowledges that shit could be worse than it already it is over a woodwind-infused beat. To wrap up the album though, “Russian Roulette” delivers an acoustic trap ballad about fighting all of his life & even being self-aware that he hasn’t dropped his hardest shit yet.

I genuinely wanted to come away from It’s Only Me looking at it to be an improvement over My Turn, but it hurts me to say that it’s just as mid & I don’t mean that disrespectfully. He’s becoming a better performer as proven by some of his recent features & that happens to be the case here also, it’s just that the production is a lot more weaker than it was when we last heard from him 2 & a half years back.

Score: 2.5/5

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Lil Baby & Lil Durk – “The Voice of the Heroes” review

This is a brand new collaborative effort between Atlanta superstar Lil Baby & Chicago rapper Lil Durk. The pair have come together on a handful of instances throughout the last few years whether it be “How I Know” off the latter’s 2016 mixtape Just Cause Y’all Waited or even a little over a month ago with “EVERY CHANCE I GET” on the latest DJ Khaled album Khaled Khaled but given their documented history with one another, they’ve decided to take it to the next level by declaring themselves as The Voice of the Heroes.

The title track is a cloudy kickstarter to the album & even though I appreciate the message “2040” being about balling forever, the instrumental is just middle of the road. Travis Scott tags along for the synth-heavy “Hats Off” as the trio shout out those who be keeping it real whereas the Wheezy-produced “Who I Want” brings in some rich piano melodies as they talk about running trains on bitches.

Meanwhile on “Still Hood”, we have Baby & Durk reminding listeners of where they came from backed by a mellow beat from London on da Track before incorporating strings on the loyalty themed “Man of My Word”. We have Nick Papz working in some flutes for the duo as they link up with Meek Mill for the braggaodious “Still Runnin’”, but then “Medical” is easily the saddest joint on the whole thing as they’re crying for help from drug addiction.

“How I Feel” doesn’t have much going on instrumentally despite the lyrics saying you’re not alone on feeling a certain way in certain situations while “Lying” angrily calls out wankstas on their bluff. The rapid keyboards on “Okay” are really cool as both parties talk about being stuck in their ways whereas the horn-inflicted “That’s Facts” finds them speaking their truths. The song “Please” is a more romantic cut down to the airy production from Turbo, but then Durk & Baby bring in Young Thug for the celebratory wealth anthem “Up the Side”.

They later acknowledge the fact that people look up to them on “If You Want To” & even though the guitars come in on occasion, they’re a really awesome touch. The song “Rich Off Pain” is a summery cut saying they became successful due to expressing their struggles while the penultimate track “Make It Out” expresses their desire to “rid this curse” over a dejected Murda Beatz instrumental. To round it out, “Bruised Up” is an emotional finisher pondering what they’d do if they got locked up.

A lot of mainstream collab albums this day in age tend to be hit or miss, but I think it’s safe to say The Voice of the Heroes is leagues better than Drip Harder was. Not just because the chemistry has improved, but the production choices are more refined too.

Score: 3.5/5

42 Dugg – “Free Dem Boyz” review

42 Dugg is a 26 year old rapper, singer & songwriter from Detroit, Michigan breaking out a few summers back off the strength of his debut EP 11241 Wayburn. This would catch the attention of both Yo Gotti & Lil Baby, who jointly signed him to their respective labels Collective Music Group & 4PF Music shortly after. Dugg’s profile continued to grow in 2019 when he dropped his debut mixtape Young & Turnt, which was followed up last year by the sequel Young & Turnt 2. However, it’s all been leading up to his full-length debut over here.

The intro is a short, violin-laced trap banger much tells all his homies to call him whenever they need anything whereas the next song “Turnest N***a in the City” goes into a more hyphy direction as Dugg proclaims himself as such. The bragging continues on the brief, keyboard-laced “We Know” before he & Roddy Ricch hop over a Scorpions sample for “4 da Gang”.

Future tags along up on the atmospheric “Maybach” to talk about putting it on for their respective hometowns & the Einer Bankz-produced “Bestfriends” returns to a more Bay Area sound with the lyrics paying tribute to Dugg’s childhood friends. Lil Durk pulls up on the dreary “Alone” to express falling outs & being street cats forever & even though I like the heartfelt subject matter on “Still Miss My N****s”, the Rylo Rodriguez verse is atrocious.

The song “Free Merey” is a guitar ballad about how he & Merey will always be together while the Antt Beatz-produced “Quez Free” is a thumping anthem about what Dugg’s been up to lately. Right after that, “Please” is a cloudier cut saying that he’s “still got shit down” & then EST. Gee helps him get on the drug dealer tip on the grim “Rose Gold”.

“Judge Please” is a 2-minute hyphy banger crying out for help while the Fivio Foreign & Rowdy Rebel-featured “Still Catching Cases” feels like an off-the-cuff drill joint. Taz Taylor incorporates a piano & hi-hats on “It Get Deeper Pt. 2” as Dugg goes on about how he can’t be outscored & then the Murda Beatz-produced “And I Gangbang” is a lively gangsta rap cut.

The next 2 songs are all homages to 42 Dugg’s friends Woo & Skeet with the production sounding eerily similar to one another, but then we go into Bay territory one last time on the closer “Free Me” which is him showing y’all how life works.

I think to safe to say that Free Dem Boyz is without question Dugg’s most mature effort to date. Pretty sure we all knew he was gonna stick with that signature modern Detroit sound à la Sada Baby, but the lyrics are a lot more personal than they were on previous efforts.

Score: 3.5/5