Lil Baby fiddles with dice the way others fold up their napkin or twirl their hair. Within a minute of entering the bunker-like studios belonging to Atlanta label Quality Control, where fellow signees like Migos and Lil Yachty also record, Baby spots a red die and instinctively shoots it across the countertop. He throws it without looking while carrying on a full conversation about staying motivated.

Quality Control’s studios is, first and foremost, a place of business. But according to signs posted around the building, the “house”—Quality Control co-founders Kevin “Coach K” Lee and Pierre “Pee” Thomas—gets 30 percent of all gambling winnings. Management may as well have called it the Lil Baby rule. “I’ve had so many dice in here from over time,” the rapper says. “I’ve had some crazy games in here—this room, that room, any room in here—with 12, 15, 20 people.”

Before last summer turned to fall, and his breakout hit “My Dawg” consistently filtered out of car windows in his native Atlanta neighborhood of West End, Baby wasn’t even rapping. He was too busy shooting craps as a full-time hobby to give any serious thought to anything outside of that. So six years ago when Coach K, who was introduced to Baby through Pee, told the teen that he should start rapping because he “got the swag for it,” he completely brushed off the idea.

Baby couldn’t see what they saw back then. He never could have imagined landing at the same label as Coach’s then-new clients Migos, or opening for PnB Rock this past spring. He couldn’t have predicted that, when Kevin Gates became a freed man in January, that the Baton Rouge rap stalwart would recite Baby’s own lyrics back to him over the phone (“This n***a knew the words to my songs,” Baby wrote on Instagram). He didn’t know how to bet on himself; not as he does now at 23.

“Growing up you ain’t even learn about the odds,” Baby says. “You just know it’s a hustle: Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, you just try. But since I’ve been rapping, I’ve been so busy that I haven’t even been gambling that much. I used to always be in Atlanta, chilling. I didn’t really have as much to do. So I would gamble as a hobby. Now I’d rather go into the studio and try to make me a hit.”

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