Lil Baby’s New Album: “It’s Only Mid?”

A mere night before Carnegie Mellon University’s highly anticipated and much needed Fall Break, Dominique Armani Jones, more commonly known as the rapper Lil Baby, finally released his highly anticipated album “It’s Only Me” after a nearly three-year hiatus. Following his last album “My Turn,” which topped the charts for five weeks and was one of the best performing albums of 2020, it would be an understatement to say that Lil Baby was under pressure to maintain his position at the top of the rap game. In “It’s Only Me,” Mr. Jones delivered a whopping 23-song project featuring some well established names in the rap community. However, it seems that this album didn’t fully represent the Atlanta rapper’s real potential.

In his six year career, Lil Baby has undoubtedly enjoyed explosive success as fans followed his “up-and-coming” persona and “hungry” attitude. One of Jones’ greatest appeals, compared to established rappers and other artists trying to make it in the industry, has been his willingness to fight to secure his place at the top and refusing to wait for success to find him. However, on this album, we find Lil Baby leaning heavily on just a limited number of his strengths — almost retreating deep into his comfort zone, leaving little opportunity for himself to experiment with new beats, sounds, or flows. The obvious explanation for this is a reluctance to meddle with a tried and true strategy, but coupled with the length of the project, the album sounds monotonous and generally uninspired as his beats and flows sound similar from song to song. This is not to say that the songs are bad or even mediocre, but considering what we know he is capable of and demonstrated in “My Turn,” the new album undeniably could have been better.

One of Lil Baby’s greatest strengths is his ability (in a completely, seemingly-effortless way) to manipulate language, making otherwise generic and borderline forgettable lines into catchy, memorable lyrics. Additionally, he’s historically been able to rap, honestly and interestingly, about what is currently happening in his life. Many artists in rap often fall back on old stories of their pasts or generic clichés about fame and riches. In this latest album, we begin to see hints of this in lyrics such as the one on "From Now On" about buying too many houses, or gloating in the intro about dinner with Kris Jenner, or talking about blowing a bag on new veneers on "Everything." With that being said, we can clearly see glimpses of Lil Baby’s greatness on “It’s Only Me.” On songs like “Real Spill,” “Forever,” and “Double Down,” his lyricism is authentic and soulful, providing something fresh amidst the plethora of tracks.

In a word, this album was… slightly above mid. Given the potential Lil Baby has demonstrated in the past, especially with “My Turn” and his unprecedented run on features immediately following that album, his project sounds repetitive and mildly lackluster. Overall, I’d call it a missed opportunity for one of the biggest rappers of this generation to show off all the areas where he’s strongest or experiment with something new (or both, given how long the album is). However, the constant jabs at DJ Akademiks littered throughout the album are a funny detail that enhance the project as a whole. The next challenge Lil Baby faces is with his next album, which will determine if he is still on top or is on the road to the fall off. Can Lil Baby put together a classic project with no skips?