HipHopWired Featured Video

Source: Prince Williams / Getty

In every generation, you have talents who can transcend the hurdles that separate good from great. Kendrick Lamar has elevated himself to a rare level in the years since he first hit the mainstream market, inducing the type of fan favor people like Nas and Jay-Z bring with their releases.

Joe Budden’s recent declaration that Kendrick is the Boogeyman of rap is a comparison few would disagree with. However, there’s another generational talent, who’s made himself a force in his own right, haunting the rap game with his verses and terrorizing rappers with nightmares and that’s Lil Baby.

In the five years since Lil Baby has been out, he’s become the name people can say as their favorite, but only once out of fear they’ll be next. Everybody from the bar rappers like Benny the Butcher and Fat Joe to Lil Wayne and Nicki Minaj and athletes like Sharife Cooper all think that Lil Baby is a menace, crediting his lyrics and vocal cadence as part of his appeal. Yes, Kendrick is the artist fans wait for and the one MC’s avoid, (insert “Control” verse), while Lil Baby, just like Freddy Krueger, is deemed as the safer option of the two. Freddy is coming for you at night, which is better because that’s when everyone expects to see you out. The Boogeyman isn’t something you can avoid and when he comes it’s a sure shot you won’t be able to get close to him. Lil Baby’s commercial viability, charisma, and talent are why he’s admired and respected in this generation, but like Krueger, it’s hard to spot him during the daylight.

Just look at the number of collaborations and songs Baby’s done with others over the years. People aren’t put off collaborating with him and often it helps the other party more than Baby. But like Freddy, Baby has a way of haunting all the features he’s on, which is evidenced in videos like that one that just went viral (her delivery was pretty impressive). His verses on songs like “Wants and Needs”, “Both Sides”, “Do We Have a Problem” and “5500 Degrees”  are stellar, but never get the full attention they deserve.

Kendrick, who’s been on hiatus for the last five years (until recently), is like that ray of sun that comes out for a while and when it does it heats up everything around it. Kendrick’s decision to announce his return on his oklama page sums up just how impressive and powerful his career is: He’s able to change the pulse of the game when he wants to and makes it hard for the other stars to shine their brightest. However, when the night comes, even the sun realizes that the night is just a reflection of the same awesomeness. It may come at a different time and may shine differently, but it’s equally impressive in its own right. People avoid the boogeyman just like people avoid contacting the sun, but when it’s the night, we all pull out our telescopes to see once in a lifetime space activity.

Ironically, as different as K-Dot and Lil Baby are from each other, they share similarities in both their appeal to their fanbase and their creative output. The same way you won’t be able to tell someone from California that Kendrick isn’t the best is the same way you wouldn’t be able to tell someone from Georgia that Lil Baby isn’t either. Both are devoted to their favorite and whenever their artist takes a creative risk, they equate it to being the best display of music made. The overwhelming response Lil Baby received with his 2020 song, “The Bigger Picture” brought to mind just how jarring “Alright” was for Kendrick in 2015. “Alright” served as the soundtrack for Black Lives Matter and “The Bigger Picture” captured the anger and energy of the 2020 Red Summer.

Lil Baby has everything he needs to be great and even though the sun is coming back out this summer, it doesn’t take away from what he’s done and will do. That’s why even when Kendrick drops, there’s nothing to fear. All eyes will be on his release, but Lil Baby has something to prove, and it’s always the ones lurking in the shadows.