It’s Only Me is Lil Baby’s third solo album, proclaimed for several years as the next goat, not only of southern rap but on-top of a whole new generation of American urban artists.
Inspired by the likes of Lil Wayne and Young Thug, it’s pretty clear from his early days that he’ll be doing… Mumble Rap. This sub-genre, not really appreciated by rap purists, convinces strongly with Lil Baby’s attitude and style since his debut in 2017. He manages to get certifications and credibility to his art. His mixtapes are popular and everything is going well for him. With super hits like Yes Indeed or Drip Too Hard (on the joint album he will do with another Atlanta celebrity, Gunna), he got Diamond Plaques to hang on his walls. In the wake of all his successes, the project that will consecrate him as one of the +++ headliners of US rap, on an equal level with Drake or Future, his second opus My Turn. It will be so strong for Baby that two and a half years after its release, at the time of writing, the project is still in the top 20 best-selling records in the States. The tour de force is successful and will even surprise its audience with more touching titles than usual like Grace or the very good Emotionally Scarred.
With a switch made towards ambitions less centered on money picked up in the street, the third album seemed to me as being a consolidation of the My Turn era, probably a little more worked and thought out. This personal feeling was reinforced with the release of the artwork, in the same style, although a bit more bombastic. We see 4 faces of Lil Baby on Mount Rushmore, an image often used in the USA pop culture to rank the best in their fields of expertise. It sets the context, so to speak. But it’s don’t work when listening to the project. And we could feel it at the unveiling of the tracklist. Tracklist (too?) long, 23 titles for 60 minutes of music. The tracks are short, the guests are not surprising, the producers… either. There’s an unpleasant sensation of listening to one and the same track, with the same poor performances from the rapper, which are little more pleasant than a washing machine in spin mode. The MONEY subject strongly at the center of all the debates kills the interest, the surprise of the renewal that I was hoping for and finally nothing comes out. And if the reviews seem hard for It’s Only Me, they’re also applicable to pretty much every Trap release with a similar structure. It’s not bad per se, but ultimately a bit boring.
I think this project closes an era of Lil Baby, namely that of Trapper Mumble Rap. He needs to live up to what he aims for, which is to be a superstar. So being a superstar in rap doesn’t necessarily mean making songs with Dua Lipa or Ariana Grande, but he needs to step out of that comfort zone that the discerning, international public doesn’t want to hear from him anymore. He has enough background and freshness in him to only give music made in *type beat trap* that can be found on YouTube. If a Rick Ross could have a very nice career, the highway is open for Lil Baby.