Baby Keem first appeared on most listeners’ radars after his song, “ORANGE SODA,” went viral on TikTok. His casual vocal delivery and unique voice made this song a summer hit, and propelled him into the hip-hop spotlight.
The acclaimed hit came from his 2019 mixtape, “DIE FOR MY B****,” one of my favorite projects of the year. The tape saw Keem utilize skeletal instrumentals that often had multiple beat switches, a style that complemented his aggressive lyrical output.
So, it was safe to say that when I heard Baby Keem’s “family ties,” featuring his older cousin and rap legend Kendrick Lamar, I was eager to hear the rest of his debut album, “The Melodic Blue.” The second of two singles that dropped prior to the album’s release, “family ties” was a demonstration of how rappers with tight chemistry can bring their songs to the next level.
The first half of the song has Baby Keem doing what he does best — creating bangers with interesting flows and various beat switches. This is followed by a Kendrick Lamar verse (his first since 2019) in which he switches to a country-like flow, which is arguably the best musical moment this year.
“The Melodic Blue” certainly lived up to the hype that was established by the success of “family ties.”
The album opener, “trademark usa,” projects Keem at his most vulnerable, contemplating the consequences of his newfound fame over a somber soul sample. This is immediately contrasted when distorted 808s come in under Keem’s combative bars. After an on-brand beat change, Rosalía supplies a catchy chorus.
“Pink panties” adds a contemporary love song to one of Keem’s many acquaintances. This cut is in line with Keem’s earlier discography, but is enhanced by the chorus, sampled from Che Ecru’s 2019 freestyle “F*ck Instagram.”
On “Scapegoats,” Keem reflects on the contrast between his present and past over an emotional serpentwithfeet sample. It’s clear Keem wanted to expand past the traditional rap banger he's known for, and accomplishes this on this cut. Unfortunately, the track is only one minute and 17 seconds long, the shortest on the album.
“Range brothers” is more of the same as rap’s newest duo, and feels like a continuation of the fun that was had between Keem and Kendrick during “family ties.” Despite the lackluster production, this song is held up by the amazing performance between the two cousins. The song begins with Keem crooning about his need for a girlfriend, and Kendrick carries the song to half point of the album with a solid verse.
Now let me preface this by saying this might be the best part of a rap song, ever.
Kendrick begins the verse with a contagious chorus that consists of him repeating the phrase “Let’s get this sh*t,” and then, “top of the morning.” Keem then spits the coldest bars of the past decade while K. Dot supplies ad-libs.
These might be the best ad-libs ever seen in the genre.
- “Give me that b****, but, sir”
- “pgLang, fool”
- “Rover gang”
- “We're not the Wayans”
And my personal favorite —
- “He’s Baby Keem”
Unfortunately, the album hits a slow moment after “range brothers.”
The song “issues” is nothing new, done better by better vocalists such as Don Toliver or The Weeknd. Keem has been known to make slower ballad-inspired songs where he belts his heart out, but in my opinion, these have never been his strong suit. This same problem appears on the song “lost souls.” It is nice to see Keem step out of his comfort zone, but this style is so painfully average that it takes away from the songs on the album.
“Gorgeous” and “south africa” are both songs that lack memorable choruses, but have Keem in his prime during the verses.
“Cocoa (with Don Toliver)” and “durag activity (with Travis Scott)” both attest to Keem’s talent for hook delivery. He supplies great verses in both songs, but shines when he accentuates his unique sound and pairs it with a catchy flow.
“Vent” is the third song on the album that features Kendrick, and in my opinion, could have been the best if it would have stretched past the three-minute mark. Again, the two’s undeniable chemistry is infectious and forces the listener to have fun.
Overall, “The Melodic Blue” shows Keem deepening his iconic sound, while also debuting rap’s most powerful duo. While some new directions he experiments with could be developed and explored more, some should have been left with his previous EPs.
If one thing is true, Baby Keem is going to be here for a while.
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