By Geoffrey Rowlands
In the braggadocio world of rap, it is highly unusual to hear anyone admit he still has a great deal to learn. Yet this is precisely the attitude of 23-year-old Atlanta, Georgia, native Dominique Jones, better known to music fans as Lil Baby.
He may be a novice in the music business but Baby’s talent is clearly apparent and has been recognised by rap fans. His debut studio album, Harder Than Ever, has stormed straight to number three on the Billboard 200. The album has also spawned a smash hit single. Yes Indeed has so far peaked at number six on Billboard’s Hot 100.
This track should have been the lead single from Harder Than Ever. Baby, who has a habit of voicing “You know what I’m saying” after almost every statement, explained why Southside became the first single.
“The song got leaked online so I felt like I had no choice but to run with Southside as the lead single. I wasn’t even planning on releasing that song as a single. Definitely not before the album dropped.
“I wanted to do something different as far as my presentation to show what was coming. But Southside was pretty well received and reached number 79 on the Hot 100. Maybe it worked out for the best in the sense of preparing people to hear Yes Indeed.”
His big hit track also features Canadian superstar Drake.
“Drake wanted to do something with me. He is very generous with his time and his talent. You don’t have to be a big name player for Drake to be interested in working with you. He said he’d send me a song and that was exactly what happened. He sent me part of Yes Indeed. I worked on it and sent my verses back to him. We chopped it up and had a great song.”
The track attracted considerable interest when it was played during the release party for Canadian rapper Preme’s debut studio album, Light Of Day.
“It didn’t have a title at that time. People started calling it Pikachu. After the party, Pee (Quality Control Music CEO Pierre Thomas) put a snippet on his Instagram account but he quickly deleted it because he didn’t want the song to leak online.”
It was his friends Pee and Quality Control co-founder Coach K, real name Kevin Lee, who were instrumental in persuading Baby to try his hand at rapping.
“I always loved music and knew a lot of people on the Atlanta music scene. But I had never considered the possibility of becoming a rapper.
“I was born into poverty. My father left when I was two. My mother had to raise me and my two sisters as a single parent. We lived on food stamps and government assistance. I grew up around people who made it in the music business. That’s how I came to be part of the scene without being a rapper or musician.
“When you are poor, you do what you can to put food on the table. I dropped out of school in tenth grade to become a full-time drug dealer. This raised my family’s standard of living, but I couldn’t stay ahead of the police forever. I got caught and spent two years in jail.”
Baby had no wish to endure more time in prison. Upon his release, he listened to all those friends who kept urging him to try rapping. He was surprised and delighted by the result.
“My friends saw things in me that I definitely didn’t see in myself. I’d never even tried rapping. But I realised I was good. I could do this thing that I’d never even thought about.”
His debut mixtape, Perfect Timing, was released in April, 2017. This was followed by three more mixtapes throughout the rest of the year. The last of these, Too Hard, was issued last December. It became Baby’s first entry on the Billboard 200 peaking at number 80.
He had already hit number 71 on the Hot 100 with his single, My Dawg.
“The (University of) Georgia football team played My Dawg in their locker room. They wanted it to become their official anthem (the team nickname is Bulldogs) but I don’t think that’s going to happen.”
Baby’s rap style is not easy to define. There is a distinct variation in many of his songs.
“I started out from scratch. I knew nothing. I’m a quick learner but I’m still a long way from mastering my craft. I’m improving every day. The more I practice, the more I’m advancing.
“I’ve become a far better lyricist. My passion for music has grown as I’ve improved. I’m really excited about Harder Than Ever because I feel like the album is all the way up to par. But my future releases will definitely be better. I’m still in the new to music period and have so much all around artist development still to come. I’m good now but I’m nowhere near where I’m going to be.”
Anyone with around $27,500 to spare who would like to own an original vinyl copy of Prince’s legendary LP, The Black Album, now has the opportunity to buy the record.
The Black Album should have been Prince’s 16th studio LP, the follow-up to 1987’s Sign O’ The Times. But Prince was in one of the more weird periods in his life. He insisted the album should be issued with no name and no cover art in a plain black sleeve. There should also be no promotion nor even an announcement that a new Prince album had been released.
One week before The Black Album should have been issued, Prince claimed to have had a “spiritual epiphany” and demanded that all copies should be destroyed. He actually footed the bill for their destruction.
Just nine are known to have survived. Five pristine copies were offered for sale last year. One of these fetched $42,298.
The lesser price for the album currently being offered for sale at the Discogs website reflects the record having been played. The five sold last year were still sealed in their original packaging.
Ironically, The Black Album is owned by many Prince fans. He eventually allowed the record to be released seven years later in 1994 though only as a limited edition CD. It has never been released on vinyl.
Expensive as The Black Album may be, it does not match the price for an album entitled Camille which Prince made for himself. He adopted a feminine alter-ego for the songs on this record. Only 17 copies are believed to exist. One was sold last October. It fetched $59,000.
Rick Astley’s 50 was the surprise smash hit album of 2016. His first LP for 11 years, it hit number one on the UK chart and was listed among the top 20 best-selling albums of the year.
Rick’s ninth studio album, Beautiful Life, is set for release on July 20. But he is already back on the music scene with the title-track having just been issued as his latest single. There is no video as yet but an official audio posting of the song can be found at www.youtube.com/watch?v=ilGeSVZkC9k
The 12 tracks on his forthcoming album were all written, produced and recorded in Rick’s home studio.
“I love tinkering around with bits and pieces in my little studio,” Rick smiled. “Being in there is like my refuge. Before I really knew it, songs were being created and I was making a new record.”
The album can be heard in full via links to Apple or Spotify from www.rickastley.co.uk/
2018 has so far been a special year for rapper Cardi B. The 25-year-old New Yorker topped the Billboard 200 with her debut album, Invasion of Privacy. She is also pregnant with her first child with her fiance, Migos rapper Offset.
But Cardi is in the news now for her support of the New York strip club where she used to work. She has always spoken positively about her time as an exotic dancer. It enabled her to escape poverty and an abusive relationship.
The club has been shut down by police. This came about after owner Imran Jairam accused precinct police chief Emmanuel Gonzalez of unfairly targeting the venue amid allegations of a failed blackmail attempt. It is alleged the shutdown was ordered by Gonzalez after his demands for a variety of free gifts were rejected.
Rap stars 50 Cent and Joe Budden have already protested the closure on their Instagram accounts. Now Cardi has used her Instagram story to add her voice to the protests. She still has fond memories of working there and demanded justice for the club. She said there have never been any shoot outs, no-one has ever been murdered there and the locks should immediately be opened.
As yet, the venue remains closed.
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