Less than six months after releasing his Too Hard mixtape, Lil Baby, 23, released his first ever studio album, Harder Than Ever, on May 18. You only get one chance to make a first impression, and on this debut, Lil Baby recruited some big names to guest, with Offset, 26, Lil Uzi Vert, 23, Young Thug, 26, Starlito, 33, and the collab he did with Drake, 31, will have listeners going “Yes Indeed.” As you blast this new release, get acquainted with the man born Doninuqe Jones, but is better known as Lil baby.
1. He’s only been rapping for a year… “I just started rapping six months ago,” Lil Baby told XXL, meaning that this past March was the one-year anniversary that Lil baby decided to pick up a mic. “Coach K [Kevin Lee, co-founder of Quality Control Music] has been telling me to rap for years. One of my bros called me and we talked on the phone for like two to three hours and I just said I’m going to take it serious. Before that, I never really thought about rapping. Coach K told me he thinks I should start rapping because of my image, my lifestyle. ‘You got a lifestyle or an image you might as well rap about what’s going on.’ I tried it and it started to move fast so I stuck with it.”
2. … but he’s been massively prolific. His first mixtape, Perfect Timing, was released in April 2017. The start of what may be his Hard trilogy came a few months later, when Harder Than Hard dropped in July. Too Hard, his third mixtape in a year, arrived in December, and it contained his biggest hit so far, “Freestyle.” His other track, “Suddenly,” featuring Moneybagg Yo, got radio play and started to build a buzz around Lil Baby.
“I created a passion for it,” he told Noisey, comparing his improvement to practicing at basketball. “Like, over time it was just going to the court. If you went to the court the first time and had a good game, and that shit was kinda fun, then you start going everyday. And then next thing you know you just start getting better and start hittin’ it and you’re balling. You love it.”
3. He did two years behind bars. “Last two years I had been in prison,” he said in Sept. 2017. “ It’s been an amazing blessing [since I was released from prison]. Selling drugs ended me up in prison. I got a five-year sentence and I did two. When I came home, 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.”
4. Some are calling him the next big thing in hip hop. “People tell me, ‘This is the new Atlanta right here,’ ” Pierre “Pee” Thomas, co-founded of the Quality Control music, told Noisey. “I don’t feel like it’s been an artist that came and took the lane from Atlanta as far as, like, what’s real. When I listen to Lil Baby, it put me in a mind of where it was with Gucci Mane and Young Jeezy and T.I. Back to the trap. It put me back in that space. Like he’s the new version of that.”
5. There’s a simple, honest reason behind his name. He’s 23 years old, so what’s the deal with the moniker? “I got the name Lil Baby,” he told XXL, “because I always hung around older dudes. When I was like 10 I was hanging with n***as like 18, 19; even now I hang around older dudes. I’m the baby out the crew. So they just started calling me Lil Baby.”