Words by Torry Threadcraft
Images by Rahim Fortune
Fashion by Jason Rembert
Production by The Quadri Group
“Some shit is just out of pocket,” says Lil Baby. Over the phone from his Georgia home, he’s in the midst of explaining his perspective on the media’s tenuous relationship with rappers. “Keep it goddamn cordial. Some shit is clickbait. And some shit draws attention. But it’s deeper than that.”
The 26-year-old rapper has had a complicated run with the media, so it’s not hard to understand why Baby is speaking on the subject with such conviction. Gossip blogs dissect his relationships on a near-weekly basis, while fans speculate about beef between him and his labelmates on social media. Little did he know, two days after our conversation in March, his performance of his song “The Bigger Picture” at the 63rd Annual Grammy Awards would generate both praise and criticism from those very outlets. Though Baby is guarded from letting the press into his private life, he’s more than open to speak about anything else, and is otherwise as candid as can be.
In just four years, Lil Baby has attained all the signifiers of modern rap excellence — hyperproductivity, a heavy presence on the charts, and a growing list of successful neophytes — and it only took him about half as long as it did for his predecessors. That new career trajectory, for better or worse, comes from Atlanta’s Gucci Mane by way of New Orleans’ Lil Wayne. From 2005 to 2009, Gucci, like Wayne, tinkered with his style over the course of some 25 albums and mixtapes. He has dozens of cult classic records, but most importantly, he crowned future rap royalty like Young Thug and Migos, cementing his own legacy in the process, and changing the metric by which a rap star is judged. “No matter how much hard work I put in, I blew up quick,” Baby admits as we reflect on this phenomenon. “I know it’s people who work ten times harder, who never got half of what I got. I did. 100 percent.”
Between 1994, when Baby was born, and 2005, when the rap industry was undeniably shifting towards Atlanta, the hottest street rapper in Atlanta getting a Grammy nod would be a shocking accomplishment — impossible, even. Lil Baby’s on his third nomination so far, and as we speak, he admits he hasn’t really decided what he’d do if he won. “Believe it or not, I don’t even know,” Baby said sheepishly. Even though he didn’t end up winning the awards for Best Rap Performance or Best Rap Song, 2021 is shaping up to be just as big. Baby’s been teasing a full-length project with Lil Durk for weeks, and has recently appeared in the studio recording for DJ Khaled’s next album. “You know they don’t give you the awards the same night...by the time I see it, I won’t even care about it.”
This is a preview of our full interview with Lil Baby, published in BRICK Edition 10.