A study conducted by Microsoft pinpoints the average attention span of a consumer to be around 8 seconds before dropping. Yet, Baby Keem has been at the forefront of music discourse throughout all of 2021.
It is an anomaly; we’re used to a release cycle having one weekend to shine. The Friday drop, the weekend spins, the Monday proclamation of an opinion. Kanye managed to prolong his hype through a slew of release parties, building anticipation through cryptic performance art. But what happened after the Sunday it dropped? 3 days of pundits tweeting and awaiting the arrival of an Anthony Fantano review before they moved onto Drake. But even throughout these fleeting trends, Baby Keem has captained a ship of discussion that refuses to leave.
The Bright Hue
So what makes him the exception? Let’s look at a Jimmy Smith lyric from his 1982 song ‘Jimmy Smith Rap’. “Only real music is gonna last, all that other bullshit is here today and gone tomorrow.” It’s hard to think that way when the trajectory sometimes points in the opposite direction, but at age 20, Keem’s artistry has already lent itself to creativity. He’s four EPs and two mixtapes deep. He raps, sings, and produces. He has created a unique aesthetic that lends itself to eye-catching music videos, and standout roles in Calvin Klein campaigns. Just last month, he stole the show on Kanye’s DONDA standout ‘Praise God’. All of this was achieved before the recent release of his debut album The Melodic Blue, the start of a journey to superstardom.
The Mixings of a Masterpiece
Off the rip, The Melodic Blue is not like other recent debut albums. Only 4 of the 16 tracks contain features and 15 of the 16 feature production from Baby Keem itself. Rather than what you’d see from the hot iron-striking project of an artist capitalising on a TikTok hit, this debut felt as if it were a long time coming. Everyone from the fans to Drake raved about Keem’s last mixtape Die For My Bitch, with genre-bending cuts like ‘Honest’ and bass-heavy bangings of ‘ORANGE SODA’. The hype continued to build with last year’s earworm ‘hooligan’, and this year’s spacious ‘no sense’. We were all forgetting that 8-second attention span, just to see what this prospect could do. And he delivered, bringing us a stylistic melting pot of trap and conscious rap on highlights such as ‘trademark usa’ and ‘first order of business’.
The Brush Strokes of Solidarity
One of the most impressive things about Keem on this album is his ability to keep up with the superstars he collaborated with. He even brings them into his world, disrupting the comfort zone of success. The eerie, minimalist sounds of ‘durag activity’ are not new to Keem’s artistry; he revels in the ability to remain feint, but effective. However, this was Travis Scott like we’d never heard him before. It was a departure from the maximalism of his arena-ready autotuned melodies, with an emphasis on playing off Keem’s flow and showing a new side to his versatility. On ‘cocoa’, Don Toliver deviates from the lusciousness of his croons and assimilates to the chaos of Keem’s experimental vision. You also can’t forget ‘range brothers’ and ‘family ties’, which are lane-switching juggernaut rap showcases that feature Keem’s cousin and mentor Kendrick Lamar. Together, they break down all normality, and thrive in controlled pandemonium, creating hard-hitting flurries, and timeline flooding pull quotes like “Amazing brother,” and ‘Top of the morning’; a wittiness that contrasts the descriptive realities of Kendrick’s previous opuses. Speaking on his work with Kendrick, Keem tweeted, “Me and dot created four new languages bro. Rap was boring. so we start making new languages.” It’s clear that Keem doesn’t want to confirm within the floodgates, but instead burst them wide open.
The Tones of Transparency
Keem’s innovation isn’t only restricted to creating the hardest-hitting bops, but also to curating a space where he can get sentimental. Take the album’s latest single ‘issues’ for example. Sonically, it’s the child prodigy of 808s & Heartbreaks and Man on The Moon, with its somber synths and melancholic keys. However, it’s personalised by the lyrical content, as Keem delves into his current struggles, and is reminiscent about relationships. It’s a level of transparency that immerses you in his universe, whether you’re streaming the song, engrossed in the video, or experiencing his Jimmy Fallon performance of the track. Adding this to the ability to make a banger, makes Baby Keem a fully-realised artist even before his first-week sales are official.
Completion on Canvas
Looking at Baby Keem’s last year, he was collecting colours in the form of single covers. ‘FRANCE FREESTYLE’ was navy blue, ‘ORANGE SODA’ was a vibrant orange, ‘hooligan’ was a pale green, ‘no sense’ was a light blue, and ‘durag activity’ was a striking brown. Those and more are the colours he sits upon on the artwork for The Melodic Blue, representing the tones that make up his inevitable journey to superstardom. The shades represent talent in songwriting, production, experimentation, curation, and vulnerability. When you have a creative force that represents these things at such a high level, you can throw that Microsoft study right in the bin. After all, when you see a rainbow, you stare for a lot longer than 8 seconds. So top of the morning to you, because Baby Keem is about to get this shit.