Words by Jibril Osman

When it comes to the rap game, it often feels like a new rapper emerges from Atlanta every second. Over the past two decades, we’ve seen legacy rappers like T.I. and Young Jeezy, Gucci Mane, Future and Migos and recently younger rappers like Lil Yachty. “The South got something to say,” Andre 3000 said back at the 1995 Source Awards. And he was right. His statement opened the door for the city to be seen and taken seriously and for Dominique Jones aka Lil Baby, born in Atlanta in 1994, (a year before 3000’s statement,) it’s allowed the young rapper to elevate in a city that’s now seen as one of rap’s capital cities.

In 2016, Lil Baby decided to finally listen to OGs like Quality Control’s Pee and Coach K after getting out of jail, after spending two years behind bars. When talking about his mentors, Baby stated: “I always knew Peewee from QC (Quality Control) because of the streets and I knew Coach K for like 6 to 7 years. Back then he always told me to rap. I told Coach I didn’t know how to rap and he told me, ‘Jeezy didn’t know how to rap. Just do it, so when I came home from prison, I was just like I’ma just try.” And just try, he did.

His first mixtape Perfect Timing was released in April of 2017. “When I came home, (from jail) everything was right on point. That’s why I called my first project, Perfect Timing. Everything has been going good ever since, I wouldn’t change anything. The prison bid that I did, it changed me and motivated me.” The project boasted 12 songs with features from artists like Young Thug, (someone he went to high school with), Lil Yachty, Gunna and Young Scooter. Production came from names like 808 Mafia, BricksDaMane, Chapo and EarlThePearll, among others.

After releasing his debut tape to the world, Lil Baby kept putting in work and followed up the release with 3 more projects, Harder Than Hard, 2 The Hard Way and Too Hard. During this time, he started gaining real recognition from hits like, “Ride or Die,”My Dawg” and “My Drip,” before officially signing with Quality Control.

Last week, Lil Baby finally released his debut album Harder Than Ever which, true to its name, has turned out to be one of the hardest rap albums of the year so far. It features the Drake-assisted ‘Yes Indeed’ as well as features from Moneybagg Yo, Gunna, Offset and HoodRich Pablo Juan. Judging from the first-week sales of 71k, good enough for #3 on the charts, Lil Baby is on his way to solidifying his place in the legion of his city’s finest, head-and-shoulders above the latest crop of ATL rappers.

The south still got something to say.