Lil Baby wasn’t lying on the album title: it really is him leading the mainstream rap battalion. In 2018, Lil Baby came out the gate swinging with his cult classic debut ‘Harder Than Ever’ and has controlled the charts ever since, bagging a Grammy in the process and even being recruited for this year’s Tears For Fears-sampling official FIFA World Cup 2022 song.
And although Lil Baby hasn’t dropped a full album since last summer’s Lil Durk collaboration ‘The Voice of the Heroes’, or a solo record since his 2020’s ‘My Turn’, he’s continued to shake up the hip-hop zeitgeist. Over the past two years, he’s dropped show-stealing verses on Pop Smoke, Drake and Nicki Minaj tracks as well as chronicling his rise to fame in the Amazon Prime documentary Untrapped: The Story of Lil Baby. He is omnipresent, a believer in the idea that more truly is more.
‘It’s Only Me’, unsurprisingly, is a 23-track saga that borders closer to the double-disc value CDs of yesteryear instead of a cohesive body of work. The album starts strong with the G1 and Kaigoinkrazy-produced ‘Real Spill’, a street-cured motivational anthem populated with cautionary tales and status-affirming quotables: “Brodie died, that shit had me all sentimental / Cuz got life in jail, I pray to God they overturn his sentence”.
The weighty momentum is continued in the self-assured ‘Stand On It’, the TikTok-friendly ‘Heyy’ and the beat-switching Nardo Wick collab ‘Pop Out’. ‘Perfect Timing’, however, stands as an early weak point in the tracklist: with an introduction derivative of Young Thug’s ‘Beautiful Thugger Girls’ mixtape, the guitar-backed cut does little to advance the album’s overall themes of inspiration and struggle – nor its pacing.
On ‘Shiest Talk’, co-starring the currently incarcerated rapper Pooh Shiesty, the track sees Lil Baby provide one of his tightest flows in recent memory. The track’s only shortcoming is its one-dimensional subject matter: “You know I’m a big bill / You know I got big drill”. That said, ‘Shiest Talk’ is representative of the record’s biggest flaw – its length. Arriving in the album’s final moments when the attention is starting to wane, the album begs to be edited by fans as they dissect the record and pick their favourites.
The R&B-led cut ‘Stop Playin’ aims for a moody PARTYNEXTDOOR vibe, but instead resembles an algorithmic R&B-trap fusion. Fortunately, closer ‘Russian Roulette’ bookends the album with a sentiment that mirrors the record’s introductory track as Lil Baby peers into the farthest corners of his musicality. If the trimmings were removed from ‘It’s Only Me’, it might rival his previous releases – instead it’s a few notches shy of greatness
Release date: October 14, 2022
Record label: Quality Contro