The story goes that Lil Baby (born Dominique Jones in 1994) didn’t even really want to rap. He’d had encouragement—Pee and Coach K, the Atlanta kingmakers who helped launch Migos, had been on him since he was a teenager hustling dice in the street—but Baby wasn’t interested. But two years on a possession charge gave him more time to think than he wanted.
Then the work came fast: Within a year of starting to rap, he’d released six mixtapes and a full-length album, 2018’s Harder Than Ever. (Young Thug, an early booster, paid him to spend time in the studio instead of the streets.) Compared to his Atlanta peers (Thug, Gunna, Migos, etc.), Baby’s persona was muted: He shrugged off fashion shows, didn’t have tattoos (he didn’t want potential business partners from the buttoned-up, white world thinking he was something he wasn’t), and kept his boasts low-key: “I never call myself a G.O.A.T./I leave that love to the people,” he raps on “Emotionally Scarred.” But the lyricism was there, as were the low-key intensity and no-frills ethic that have become his hallmark.
By mid-2020, he’d been nominated for a Grammy and made the chart-topping album My Turn. “I don’t wanna be comin’ from where I come from all the way right here to be a nothin’,” he told Apple Music around the album’s release. “I feel like I’m past that stage. I ain’t tryna be a young, dumb n***ga. I already been that before.”