Los Angeles rapper and producer Baby Keem is a new artist gaining notoriety without viral gimmicks or attention-seeking publicity stunts. During a time where sensationalism is the golden ticket to rap stardom, the young man born Hykeem Carter plays a quieter, more secretive game.
One might expect a newcomer responsible for “Numb Numb Juice” by ScHoolboy Q, and both “Knock It Off” and “Rotation 112th” for GRAMMY-winner Jay Rock, to loudly declare his arrival—especially after working with multi-Platinum producer Cardo, who embraced the 18-year-old by producing or co-producing 10 of the 12 songs found on his infectious 2018 mixtape The Sound of Bad Habit, and well-known Hollywood table shaker Shia LaBeouf (“Gang Activites”).
Nine months removed from the release of The Sound of Bad Habit, Baby Keem aims to increase his momentum with a new project, entitled DIE FOR MY BITCH. The title doesn’t capture Keem’s youthful joy, but it will surely grab the consumer’s eye. I’m hoping for big things.
In usual 1 Listen review fashion, the rules here are the same: no skipping, no fast-forwarding, no rewinding, and no stopping. Each song will receive my gut reaction from start to finish.
An angry woman’s voice. The beat just dropped, and it’s a nice trap knock. The bass is wobbling like an unbalanced table. Keem’s cartoonish voice cuts through with ease. There’s so much mischief in his voice. He’s a kid up to no good. “Baby Keem just humbled a model.” That is the kind of shallow stunting I signed up for. Beat switch. It’s a nice, soulful shift. Those keys are shimmering. The drums dropped, and my roof is now on my neighbor's house. What a switch up. Man, I can’t help but hear a baby version of Kendrick. Imagine if Kendrick Lamar and Dennis the Menace did the fusion dance—that is Baby Keem. “She can never find a new me, ain’t no one equivalent.” It’s all pretty simple, but the performance is gold. This record is a pretty strong intro. I’m very much into it.
A slower tempo. Thankfully, the drums are still knocking like campus police. It’s a melodic verse. A love song? “Is there another guy, be honest?” He sounds sincere enough. Doesn’t seem like the same guy who just humbled a model, though. I like it. I’m not happy about the change of tempo, but the mood is effective. This record shows his range. There’s going to be some kid in high school who will sing this song under the pale moonlight. Starts to drag a bit toward the end.
3. “INVENTED IT”
Oh! This sounds fun. He sounds happier than the Migos in a Versace store. He’s back up to the nonsense. “Hanging with the demons, they dancing.” I chuckled at the sex tape not being a secret line. A quick one. Much quicker than “HONEST.”
4. “FRANCE FREESTYLE”
YES! Man, Kal Banx played this record during the ROTD III Sessions and set the entire room on fire. Shout to Latrell James and Jinx! The beat is monstrous. It rattles like the ground when Godzilla emerges from the water. And Keem is in his energetic bag. His energy makes you want to leap over the moon. "FRANCE FREESTYLE" is the type of couch-jumping energy that I wanted from Drake’s The Best In The World Pack EP. Everything about the record is just infectious. You can’t help but react. “Just got out of school and I’m still paying my funds.”
Another energy shift. Is he going for a slow jam? He’s singing. “Don’t talk fake deep to me.” I like this sentiment, but I’m not in love with the singing. Man, this sounds like the kind of pop song MTV would’ve played in the morning 15 years ago. I love those harmonies. It’s a well-written song. Keem isn't selling me on the delivery, but I can see myself loving this in a few weeks. Baby Keem is making Scott Pilgrim vs. the World soundtrack music, and I dig the range. He makes you feel like you’re in middle school again. Whose voice is that?
YES! When he comes on the record a capella you know it’s about to be an eruption. This beat just knocked the wind out of my chest. It’s so disruptive. I want to knock buildings down. I want to revolt against the establishment. “MOSHPIT” was made for live shows. A mid-song switch up. These hi-hats. “I am 50 Cent,” haha. What does that even mean? I like the boldness. He has 50’s cockiness. I love how menacing this beat sounds. Another voicemail. The angry woman sounds apologetic.
7. “SLICE INTERLUDE”
Singing Keem. The energy is very inconsistent. The songs have been good, though. “SLICE INTERLUDE” doesn’t add much, but the variety is keeping things interesting. Seems like a move to keep him out of the banger box. Looks like he wants you to know there’s a pop bent to his creative palette.
8. “ROCKSTAR P”
I like this title. Nice build-up. Oh yeah, this is pure, unsupervised joy. Nice flow; nice beat; has a nice bounce. Although I love whimsical enjoyment, not completely in love with “ROCKSTAR P.” It’s good, but eight songs in, it doesn’t strike like the previous records. Will have to revisit.
9. “TOP RAMEN”
We're back in the banger bag. I wonder why the album is sequenced the way it is? The up and down is an interesting experience. I love his detached rapping. This verse sounds so leisurely. I love the line about his mom. Keem sounds like the kind of kid who wears black Air Force 1s. Another good one. “Your bitch on TV if the sex tape leak” is a line. Following it up with the ESPY reference is pure gold. That alone is reason enough to revisit this one.
10. “MY EX”
Oh! The guitars are out. Get in that rock bag, Keem. Thank god this isn't country trap music. Man, this melody is infectious. Wow. There should have been more where this came from on the album. I was getting worried there wasn’t enough sonic variety. There’s self-awareness to how the album moves. A few curveballs just when you get comfortable. “MY EX” is my new favorite. I need a Lil Uzi Vert remix. “I want to see you naked but I hate safe sex.” Baby Keem just threw away a potential condom endorsement. Did we learn nothing from Cassidy?
11. “BUSS HER UP”
Oh, interesting. It’s a full record. Oh yeah, I like this a lot. It sounds like AND1 Street Ball video game music. When I hear Baby Keem rap, I can’t help but think of Bobb’e J. Thompson’s character in the movie Role Models. He makes trap mischievous. Keem’s music never sounds dangerous, but more so troublesome. He says all the things kids would be put in time out for. She’s back to being angry; get it together, Keem.
12. “ORANGE SODA”
I wonder if there will be a Kenan and Kel reference. Is that before his time? Who the hell did this kid grow up on? “You my orange soda shorty.” What does that even mean? Hahaha. I’m pretty sure Keem is borrowing from Chief Keef's topicality checklist but with fewer guns. That delivery switch up was nice. Not a bad record.
13. “NOT MY BRO”
“Ice cream boogers on my wrist.” Ha, he almost went the whole album without a Two Phone Baby Keem reference. This beat is nice. Wait. The switch-up is what I’m talking about. Yes! “NOT MY BRO” is hellraiser music! I take back what I said about the fewer guns. “You don’t want no smoke, you don’t want no crack.” That’s what I’m talking about. The second-half is disgusting. “I am the sensei!” Man, this could’ve been its own song. “Shots at your kickback!” I might have a new favorite. Is the woman crying? She’s been through five different emotions across 13 songs.
These keys are heavy. I like this switch up. He’s singing in a tone I like. “APOLOGIZE” is a pleasant change of pace. I’m not sure of the overall narrative of the album, but this song connects with the woman crying. “Baby Keem been top five.” Ha, that rapper confidence is like no other. I love all the lines about his mom. Moms know best, most of the time. Keem should have placed "APOLOGIZE" higher up on the album; it's the kind of song that makes you want more. Both well-written and well-produced. I see him penning hits outside his catalog. I wonder if this album exists to break him as a solo artist or to show the industry he’s available for hire.
Final (first listen) thoughts on Baby Keems’ DIE FOR MY BITCH:
DIE FOR MY BITCH lacks definitive vision but displays the full arsenal of Baby Keem’s artistic range. The boisterous, disturb-the-peace energy that dominates The Sound of Bad Habit appears in spurts, but there is also a noticeable focus toward softer, melodic endeavors.
With such an inconsistent temperament and subject matter that doesn’t expand enough to warrant 14 records, DIE FOR MY BITCH is a few songs too many. The album’s saving grace, though, is its healthy production and Baby Keem’s personality. He’s fun, humorous, and full of vivacious mischief. The album is juvenile, but not kiddy. If this were the late ‘90s or the early 2000s, Baby Keem would appear on the radio with Lil Romeo and The Hot Boys.
Charm naturally attracts. That’s why charisma is considered a social magnet—it has a way of pulling people in with invisible strings. DIE FOR MY BITCH has an effortless, whimsical aura. The Kendrick Lamar similarities are impossible to ignore, but Keem still has a way of pulling you in with his voice. He is style over substance, but he’s found an approach that leaves an infectious mark on your memory.
DIE FOR MY BITCH doesn’t carry the same consistent excitement as The Sound of Bad Habit, but it is 14 more reasons to remember the name Baby Keem.
By Yoh, aka 2 Phone Baby Yoh, aka @Yoh31