By Nethan Crew
Baby Keem’s debut studio album, “The Melodic Blue,” released on Sept. 10. The album offers a 16-track listening experience of lyrical trap music that truly sets Baby Keem apart from other artists in mainstream rap.
The album opened with “trademark usa,” a track starting with a monotone Baby Keem bar with nostalgic overdriven vocal samples and piano chords. The track, with no interruption, instantly switches to a cocky bar with futuristic 808s and high-pitched held synth notes that add tension, similar to the sound of a heartbeat flatline. This track shows off two examples of Baby Keem’s diverse ability and perfectly opens the album by foreshadowing the work ahead.
The next track, “pink panties,” showed off sampled vocals from Che Ecru which led into a well-orchestrated verse that featured his exuberant rapping. The eighth song, “lost souls,” features similar rapping and shows off his vocal range. The third track, “scapegoats,” serves as a more soulful transition between “pink panties” and “range brothers,” showing that Baby Keem can rap about less superficial material while sampling artist serpentwithfeet’s song “redemption.”
The fourth track of this album is the first song with an actual feature and not a sampled vocal section from another song. The song “range brothers” features Kendrick Lamar, one of the best rappers of current history as well as Baby Keem’s cousin.
If being cousins with one of the greatest artists of the current generation wasn’t enough pressure, featuring him on two different songs intensifies public view. Kendrick Lamar and Baby Keem have two songs on this album together: “range brothers” and “family ties,” but Baby Keem keeps himself separated from Lamar, showing a sense of independence where he won’t be living behind Lamar’s shadow. Lamar serves as a complimentary artist on these tracks, while both artists show off their own identities.
The fifth track of the album, “issues,” shows off more emotional bars from Baby Keem, illustrating the many issues that he feels on a daily basis. He describes battles with his inner demons as well as feelings of turmoil felt towards his mother, caused by her toxic tendency of constantly leaving home and breaking up the family dynamic. Baby Keem feels a type of guilt in this, though, because he has continued the cycle of neglecting his sister, stating “My sister RiRi only see me on the screen, I know she needs me, I can’t help but feel T.”
The next song, “gorgeous,” features overdubbed vocals interpolated from “Praise God” by Kanye West, a song that features Baby Keem and Travis Scott. The track features more whiney vocals, but they are complemented by vocal harmonies and ad libs that balance the track out. “South africa,” the seventh track, features a basic beat and backing melody behind Baby Keem’s more exuberant rapping.
The ninth track, “cocoa,” features a very upbeat backing track as well as utilizing a great feature from Don Toliver, another famous rapper whose overly autotuned vocals fit perfectly into the song. The tenth song, “family ties,” is the second song that Kendrick Lamar was featured on and shows off the talents of both Lamar and Baby Keem, showing that rapping ability must run in their family.
“Scars” has a very similar feeling to “issues,” where Baby Keem asks God why his life is made to be so hard, citing the people he loves leaving him with conflicting emotions as a main example of this challenge to him. The song samples Kanye West’s “Love Lockdown” from his album “808 and Heartbreak,” which is cited as one of Baby Keem’s biggest influences according to Genius.
“Durag activity,” the twelfth song on “The Melodic Blue,” features Travis Scott and describes the self-assurance that both men feel over money, conquests and influence on the industry. This track, recorded before “family ties,” “range brothers” and “cocoa,” was the first track that Baby Keem has ever featured another rapper on.
“Booman” shows Baby Keem rapping over mariachi band-style horns with a trap beat behind it which displays Baby Keem’s versatility when it comes to the music choice he records over. The fourteenth track, “first order of business,” shows the important things in his life. In the music video for this song, Baby Keem says that the first thing he did with his money was buy his grandmother a house, citing it as “the first order of business.”
The second-to-last song on the album, “vent,” displays Baby Keem voicing his angers and frustrations about how his friends have tried to take advantage of him and his newfound fame and money, calling them “rats.” Although he was not officially featured on the song, the chorus was written and sung by Kendrick Lamar. The 16th and final track of the album, “16,” tells the story of a tender yet broken relationship between himself and an unnamed woman who grew up very poor.
Overall, Baby Keem’s debut studio album “The Melodic Blue” shows off many sides of his skills and personality. The album is not perfect or overly refined in any way, but I feel that there is a beauty in that. Also taking into consideration that the rapper is only 20 years old helps to put the childish energy into perspective. One thing that I think is impressive for this album is the way he makes such a diverse range of songs on this album, but they all feel like they are his, and not a single song that gets taken over by the features or production. An artist’s first album is seldom perfect and Baby Keem proves that he is here to stay in the industry with “The Melodic Blue.”