Hykeem Carter Jr., professionally known as Baby Keem, released his first album that takes an alternative route to the usual genre of hip-hop and trap music. Hykeem raps on subject matters of emotion, relationships and focuses on melodic rapping. In his previous mixtapes, produced by himself, Keem found his sound by using spacey samples and powerful drums to create his own subgenre that he has dominated since.
This album is stylized with colorful yet lonely artwork of a rainbow pier with Hykeem sitting alone on the end. All songs on the album are titled in lowercase and complement his style of melodic rap. “The Melodic Blue” includes features from Travis Scott, Don Toliver and Kendrick Lamar, the cousin of Hykeem Carter Jr.
Starting strong with the first track, “trademark usa,” Keem immediately showcases his melodic flow and switches into progressively heavier flows coupled with a melodic break and spacey vocals from Rosalia. Following the first track is “pink panties,” which features a sample that immediately blurs the line of melodic rapping and creates an annoying yet almost funky vibe for the listener.
Transitioning into “scapegoats,” Baby Keem again switches his flow and beautifully and freely raps over a vocal sample. Keem touches on his life and who he made the tape for with complex lyricism in this brief interlude. “range brothers” again switches flows mid-song and includes an eruptive feature from Kendrick Lamar including comical lines like the notable, and likely soon to be a meme, repetition of “Top of the Morning.”
“issues” and “gorgeous” follow “range brothers” and they switch back to a more melodic focus and encapsulate the Baby Keem many know from earlier hits like “HONEST.” In “issues,” Hykeem quite plainly lays out all the issues he has been struggling with in his life. He describes the constant internal battle of his own demons from his past and contemplating his relationship with family. Baby Keem even took to social media to share his feelings of the track saying in a tweet, “I wrote and produced a song titled issues. It means a lot to me. I’ll perform it on tv.” And he did two days early before the album release on the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.
“south africa” followed by “lost souls” are distinctly different vibes that manage to complement each other nicely. “south africa” comes in with a punchy bass, unavoidable keyboard and aggressive lyrics with relief from a spaced out chorus. “lost souls,” on the other hand, includes a spacey beat and softer melodic rapping.
One of the singles from the album, “family ties,” puts up a strong competition for the best song on the album. Straight out of the gate this track features a powerful beat and brass section that could announce royalty. Keem continually raps lengthy verses from start to finish where most would run out of breath. Kendrick Lamar feeds off of this and similar to other songs on the tape, during his feature the beat shifts and creates two songs in one. The two cousins’ energy is contagious in this song and toward the end Keem and Kendrick go back and forth with ad-libs and verses. Kendrick even includes a break with a country-esque voice to rap his lines of “Amazing brother, pop-off only on occasion brother” and returns to his normal flow like nothing happened.
Other notable songs include “scars,” “vent” and “cocoa” which includes a Don Toliver feature. These three songs further show how Keem has changed and created his own flows and his own genre. A lot has changed from his mixtape days, but Baby Keem still produced every song on the album other than “16” and “durag activities.” Hykeem went from making his own mixtapes, being featured on Kanye West’s 10th studio album “Donda” and now releasing his first studio album.
The album ranks a 7/10 for me and I look forward to future projects from Baby Keem.