Review: Lil Baby’s “It’s Only Me” uses same formula, fails to show growth
Review: Lil Baby's new album brings nothing new
Lil Baby has recently been a topic of conversation, but in ways that differ from the usual discussions surrounding his music and gossip about his personal life. Two years since releasing his last solo album, earning Grammy nominations and performing at worldwide festivals and tours, Jones released his third solo studio album, It’s Only Me. Born Dominique Jones, the rapper’s new album comes during a time of immense growth.
“I’ve been in the cut; I think it’s time for me to drop an album,” Jones says in the 19th song “FR.”
With no deluxe re-release expected, the lengthy 23 songs and seven features are an effort to satisfy his supporters. But in his efforts to also prove himself further as a musician, Jones doesn’t change his formula. This stagnance doesn’t depict the growth he has had over the past few years.
“FR” is also a representation of the purpose of hard work. Jones is shown etched into hip-hop’s Mount Rushmore on the album cover depicting where he sees himself in the world of rap. As he said on the 19th track, “I earned all my stripes out here for real, for real.”
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It might be a bit early to begin carving the stone on the mountain with the greats, but he is certainly a front-runner in that conversation.
His new Prime Video documentary, Untrapped: The Story of Lil Baby, showed his quick rise to being a chart-topping artist and gave viewers a rare inside look at his life. His recent humanitarian and community involvement has also caught public attention. Meeting with Democratic candidate Stacy Abrams has proved his trying to cement his name outside of hip-hop. With this in mind, he is still making sure there is time and effort put into his music, and he does this with his new album.
In addition to cementing his name, this album also shows the aspects of hip-hop he loves and respects. In his recent interview with the radio show The Breakfast Club, he says that collaborating with other artists improves the rap game.
In this album, the features did just that. He worked with previous collaborators, from vets like Young Thug, Future and Jeremih, to newcomers like Nardo Wick, EST Gee and Baby’s 4 Pocket Full signee Rylo Rodriguez. The songs with other artists that have already carved out their names in the hip-hop stone and new artists show his growth.
“Never Hating” with Young Thug, “From Now” with Future and “Pop Out” with Nardo Wick stand out on the album due to the improvement in Jones’ writing and flow choices. This competition that often comes out during collaboration allows and even forces him to push his skills. These songs are the few parts of the album where Jones try new techniques. Whether new or established, none of the features are out of the ordinary, just elevated examples of previous songs.
That is where the caveat of this project lies: it isn’t anything new.
The phrase “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it” sums up this project. With the best-selling album in 2021, surpassing Taylor Swift’s “Folklore” and Billboard charting singles and features, there might not be much reason to change. Although, he has elevated his skills with certain matured stylistic improvements, especially in his flow on specific verses and instrumentation like “California Breeze.”
But in his efforts to cement his position, he falls into the same routine of features, beat selection and topics. These choices make it easier to gain his usual recognition because he’s following the same formula. It would be more exciting to see the artist who rose to fame quickly prove himself time and time again by exploring new avenues in his music like he has in his personal life.