Updated: Apr 10, 2019
Written by Jelani Driskell
Illustration by Phoebe Zipper
In Big Mood, staff writer Jelani Driskell highlights the people behind the vibe, profiling the little-known artists behind the cutting edge of music.
This past weekend, a friend and I had a conversation about how we were becoming overwhelmed with the sheer volume of new music that was dropping. A lot of big names in the world of hip hop released projects recently— Metro Boomin, Anderson Paak and Mike Will-Made it among others. Not knowing where to start, I responded by not listening to any of it. Instead, I was stuck on one up-and-comer that really caught my attention and managed to keep it longer than I expected—California’s very own Baby Keem.
To date, not much is known about Baby Keem, though that is likely to change very soon. What is known is that he first rose to relative prominence through his work on the Black Panther Soundtrack with LA based music label Top Dawg Entertainment (Kendrick Lamar’s label). In an interview with “Pigeons and Planes”, he explained that he sent beats to TDE while they were working on putting the soundtrack together and one ended up being selected. The song “Redemption Interlude” was co-produced by Baby Keem, and his distorted, barely audible vocals can be heard at the end of the track. He later worked on Jay Rock’s album which came out this past summer, having produced two songs on the project.
On October 29th of this year, Baby Keem released a 12 song project called “The Sound of Bad Habit” with CardoGotWings, a known hitmaker in the music industry (he co-produced Travis Scott’s “Goosebumps” and Drake’s “God’s Plan” along with notable others). With a palpable chemistry between Baby Keem and CardoGotWings, they create an impressive, short and sweet project that demands multiple replays.
Baby Keem’s music can be characterized by an urgent, youthful energy mixed with a knack for creating addictive melodies. The same kind of blunt, in-your-face delivery that drew fans to Tay-K’s “The Race” will likely attract fans to Baby Keem-- in fact, some of the beats on TSoBH have a catchy flute sound that might remind people of that track. Still, it seems that Keem also possesses a natural affinity for melodic rapping that is just as much a part of his repertoire. As a persona, Baby Keem can be described as abrasive, reckless and disrespectful in the most riveting way. His title is fitting, conjuring an image of a pesky younger sibling reveling in his realization that he’s likely more gifted than many of his more established rap peers. He taunts and jeers; at times it sounds like he’s almost performing an aggrandizing spoof himself, or saying things just for shock value. In the song “Baby Keem” he emphatically declares “Unapologetic, I run up the racks/ Offend you when I say it, I won’t take it back”. While this was far from the most outrageous thing said on the project, the sentiment largely sums up his brash and impulsive attitude throughout. In other cuts such as “Miss Charlotte” he displays his melodic ability, resulting in a light and catchy song that meditates on his past and present romantic relationships. Overall, Baby Keem is a fun, expressive artist who makes music that’s easy to get hype to-- just as perfect for the pregame warmup as for the postgame W celebration.