Days before Lil Baby’s second studio album, My Turn, hit streaming services, his Fire In The Booth freestyle with Charlie Sloth leaked online. In the short clip, the 25-year-old Atlanta rapper approaches the mic, draped in an oversized jacket and an unfathomable amount of ice, and raps harder than we’ve ever heard go before. It’s the kind of performance that forces doubters to perk up and reevaluate their preconceived notions of the rapper.
Then pre-album interviews started popping up online. Speaking with Billboard about the project’s title, Lil Baby declared, “It’s my turn in music, period. It’s my turn to go number one. It’s my turn to have three songs back-to-back on the radio.”
Clearly motivated to elevate himself to a higher tier in rap with the release of My Turn, he went on, “I know people think I’m just gonna be this big ‘lil’ rapper out of Atlanta, but I’m trying to become one of the biggest rappers in the world. I don’t know when it’s gonna happen, but honestly, there’s gonna come a time where I’m as big as a Drake or a Kendrick Lamar.”
Now, the 20-track album has arrived, and it features guest verses from Young Thug, Future, Lil Wayne, Lil Uzi Vert, Gunna, and more. So, did Lil Baby accomplish his goals and level up? Is it his turn? After a couple initial spins, the Complex Music team put together some of our first impressions of My Turn.
Lil Baby made the most of his year off
In 2017, Lil Baby dropped four projects. The next year, he followed it up with three more. For those counting along at home, that’s nearly 100 songs spread out over seven projects in two years—not even including all the guest features he jumped on. Then, wisely, he pumped the brakes in 2019 and focused on improving as a rapper. Speaking with Billboard, Lil Baby estimated that he is now at least “20 times” better at rapping than he was at the time he put out his last studio album, Harder Than Ever, in May 2018. After a first listen of My Turn, it’s clear his technical skills have improved. I don’t know if “20 times” better is an accurate assessment, but he did noticeably level up. Not that we should be paying attention to people who still use the phrase “mumble rap” in 2020, but Lil Baby once and for all stepped outside of that box on My Turn, rapping his ass off with powerful, agile verses on songs like “Forget That,” “Live Off My Closet,” and “Whoa.” He also opens up on cuts like “Emotionally Scarred” and “Can’t Explain,” reflecting on his pre-fame street life and how it still hangs over his head to this day. If you still think of Lil Baby as a style-over-everything rapper from Atlanta who lacks technical chops, it’s time to reconsider. —Eric Skelton
Tay Keith delivers
It would be misleading to say Tay Keith is “back,” because the Memphis producer contributed to plenty songs in 2019. But after his breakout year in 2018, producing for artists like Drake, Travis Scott, Lil Baby, and Gunna, he focused most of his efforts in 2019 on introducing up-and-coming talent to the world. So it felt great to hear everyone’s favorite producer tag all over a major project again. Tay Keith easily has some of the hardest beats on My Turn, and he pushes himself far outside the trademark, bass-heavy Memphis sound that took over 2018 (think “Look Alive” and “Nonstop”). On “Same Thing,” he fucks around with a guitar for an upbeat track that sounds damn near summery, and he bends himself to the sound of Atlanta on the Lil Uzi Vert-assisted “Commercial.” The impossibly hard-hitting “No Sucker” is another standout, begging to be played out of the right speakers in the right whip for the rest of the year. Tay Keith, this too hard. —Eric Skelton
He kept it in the family
My Turn includes eight features, and they’re all within Lil Baby’s close circle of friends and collaborators. Gunna and Young Thug are two of Lil Baby’s most frequent collaborators—Gunna and Baby previously released Drip Harder in 2018 and had worked on dozens of records before Gunna hopped on “Heatin Up,” while Thug (who appears on “Who Should”) is the artist who Baby has constantly credited for helping launch career. Future, who appears on the previously leaked “Forever,” has also worked with Bad on the “Life Is Good (Remix)” and 2019’s “Out the Mud.” Most of the other guests on My Turn have worked with Lil Baby on multiple tracks throughout his career. Lil Uzi Vert is the only exception, as “Commercial” serves as the duo’s first collaboration. But their styles are very compatible and “Commercial” immediately rises to the surface as a standout on the whole album. By keeping the guest features in the family, none of the records feel forced. Thankfully, there isn’t a random pop star guest feature on here that ruins the vibe. —Jessica McKinney
My Turn is for more than one audience
Lil Baby has a track for every type of listener and scenario on this project. Tracks like “Sum 2 Prove” and “Woah” are for the Lil Baby fan who likes to cruise around their city with the speakers blasting. “Catch the Sun,” which also appeared on the Queen & Slim soundtrack, appeals to his female audience. And records like “Gang Signs” will work best for the club. In a recent interview with Billboard, Lil Baby said he purposefully included tracks that would appeal to different types of fans. “I put a lot of songs on my album, and I got something that’ll touch everyone,” he said. “I have songs for the streets, songs for my concert fans, songs the ladies will like, and songs that’ll touch people who are really going through it.” Mission accomplished. —Jessica McKinney
It’s a high floor album, but there’s some repetition
There aren’t any bad songs on My Turn. It’s the kind of album that you can put on repeat without needing to skip duds: Each song flows into the next, and the project collectively sets a nice vibe. It’s mood music. But if there’s a problem with the album, it’s also due to this characteristic. Some of these songs end up sounding similar to one another, and with 20 songs in total, you get the feeling that several of these tracks could have been cut, and we wouldn’t have missed anything important. The album starts somewhat slow with songs like “How” that don’t add much to the overall experience, and cuts like “Catch the Sun” are fine, but they bog things down and slow momentum. There aren’t any clear clunkers here, so the floor is high, but a 13-song tracklist with the very best songs, highlighteing each of the things Lil Baby does well, would have elevated this album from good to great. —Eric Skelton
Overall thoughts after first listen
In most ways, Lil Baby set out what he wanted to achieve on My Turn, and it will likely help elevate him to the next tier in rap’s hierarchy. But he’s not in the same conversation as the Drakes and Kendricks quite yet, which he says is his ultimate goal. I might regret saying this in a few weeks when one of these songs finds its way to the top of the charts, but after a first listen, it feels like there are lots of good songs on here, but no clear hit. I don’t hear anything on My Turn that is immediately as impressive and catchy as a song like “Drip Too Hard.” My Turn is a very enjoyable album that will convert some fans who doubted Lil Baby’s skills as a rapper, and there are lots of memorable moments that will likely turn the album into a streaming juggernaut. But, on first listen anyway, it seems to lack a monster hit, and could have been improved overall by a little pruning. —Eric Skelton