cocoa (feat. Don Toliver)
first order of business
What does an MC from Las Vegas sound like? It’s a funny question to not have an obvious answer for in 2021, but one that seems that much sillier when you consider who it is that will likely become one of the city’s first reference points. Across his debut album The Melodic Blue, 20-year-old Vegas native Baby Keem sounds firstly like a combination of his biggest influences (Kanye West, Kid Cudi, Kendrick Lamar), but also, maybe more notably, like he could be from anywhere, because that’s what an emergent MC sounds like in 2021. What other emergent MCs don’t have, however, are Keem’s dedication to airing out multiple flows over the course of a single song, his gift for spellbinding non sequitur, or the fearlessness with which he approaches song-making. They likely aren’t cousins with Kendrick Lamar either, but if Lamar’s scarcity between projects tells us anything, it’s that he’s not stepping to the mic for just anybody.
In fact, it is Lamar who sounds like he’s doing his best to keep up with Keem over the course of their The Melodic Blue collaborations (“range brothers,” “family ties”). But keeping up with Keem is no easy task. He’s hilarious, even when he’s trying to get a point across (“I must confess, I am a mess, I cannot fix it/Lil baby thick, Margiela sweats, look at my dick print,” he raps on “vent”), and he switches flows so often you’d think he had some kind of tic. The album’s only other guests are Travis Scott (“durag activity”) and Don Toliver (“cocoa”). Which just leaves that much more room for Keem to dance across octaves, drop into a whisper, deadpan, shift to double-time, and sing, all of which he does over the course of just “trademark usa.” One song into his debut and Keem has unloaded a display so excessive that a forward-thinking manager might ask him to save something for a deluxe version. But there’s not likely much you could say to someone tasked with putting Las Vegas back on the map.