Sada Baby came to the world’s attention because of a dance. In the video for his 2018 breakthrough track “Bloxk Party,” the Detroit rapper body rolls, Soul Train lines, and generally bops through three and a half minutes of smart, aggressive, and hyper-local street rap. His new project, a collection of loosies called Skuba Sada 2, caps off a two-year run that moved Sada from well-regarded local artist to buzzing rapper on the verge of major success.
An early deal with Tee Grizzley that ended in disaster behind him, Sada is currently working on his still-untitled debut album, which he promises will be “way more serious” than anything in the flood of material he’s put out over the past few years. We caught up with him via phone to hear about life in quarantine, and his new music (and dances). But we also took time to ask about his early career, and some of the people who, for good or ill, were influential in forming Sada Baby as we know him today. The interview has been lightly edited for clarity and length.
How are you holding up through the quarantine?
I’m holding up good, man. Anybody who is following the rules and taking this serious should be good.
Are you making music while you’re on lockdown?
No, man. I don’t have a studio at the house. The only studio that I record at closed down until all this shit is over with.
How are you spending your time?
Playing video games and relaxing. That’s it.
“I just wing it with a lot of sh*t, man.”
In your early career, you were a hype man for [now-incarcerated Detroit rapper] HardWork Jig. What did you learn from doing that?
I learned just about everything I know. That’s my big homie. Me and his relationship is not musical. My great granny and his great granny used to sit in the front row at church together. I lost mine first and he lost his great granny after me. I learned a lot, and not just music shit. I learned a lot of life shit from Jig. But what are you going to do? He’s locked up right now.
I was going to ask about that. One of the things that happened in his case was they tried to use his songs against him...
They did. The only reason he’s locked up is because of his music videos. [Note: In November 2018, Donell “HardWork Jig” Hendrix pled guilty to one count of RICO conspiracy and was sentenced to 30 months in prison. In his plea, he admitted to being part of the Seven Mile Bloods and to trafficking Roxicodone and/or OxyContin. Before the plea, a number of Jig’s songs were set to be used at trial.]
Yeah. What did you think about that at the time?
The rules is the rules, but I still feel like it’s some bullshit. It’s a lot of other shit people could be in jail for. But he’s in jail for being around a pistol. He didn’t have a pistol, wasn’t touching a pistol. He’s in jail for being in a music video and being around the pistol.
Did seeing his videos get used in court change anything about how you rap or the kind of videos you make?
No. I have my own felonies and shit, so I already wasn’t putting guns in my videos. I already had been moving like that. I used to have a lot of guns in my videos, and I used to have guns all the time. I haven’t used a gun in a video in probably two, three years. And I still done had about 20 to 25, almost 30 more music videos after that.
How’s Jig doing? When’s the last time you spoke with him?
I talked to him maybe two weeks ago, some shit like that. I think he called me [just now] while I was asleep. Yeah, I talk to him often, always have. His son, too. His son is my godson so I have him a lot. He’s always at the house with me, shit like that. A.D. is 1 year old.
You put out a ton of music just in the past two years. How long does it take you to write a song?
Depends on the type of song I’m making. I don’t physically write, so it doesn’t ever really take that long. I don’t freestyle, but I don’t write. Anybody who can do it would like to call it the JAY-Z/Lil Wayne approach. You rehearse the shit in your head and remember as much as you can and just take it in the booth. That’s how I do all my shit. I don’t freestyle. Freestyle is just rapping everything that comes off the top of your head and then keeping certain takes. I’ve never made a song like that.
Your early songs and mixtapes are different from what you do now. The delivery’s a little calmer and the adl-ibs aren’t as frequent. When do you think you hit on a distinct style?
Probably the D.O.N. CD [2017’s D.O.N. (Dat One Nigga)].
What was different about that from the music you did before?
The style was different. The sound’s more refined, bigger. All of that. It just was way different.
One of my favorite moments of yours was when you redid “Ice Ice Baby.” Tell me the story of deciding to do that.
Vanilla Ice? It just was a good remake to make and I like that song. I think everybody liked that song growing up or hearing it on movies or whatever the fuck. So I just wanted to redo it. Doing beats like that was some shit. You've heard motherfuckers fuck with eighties remakes a lot, like a lot of eighties faster beats. So it was easy.
I saw the video for “Freestyle” with you and YG Mista, who I know you were really close with. Tell me about that night. It looked like you guys were having a lot of fun.
That was the first day I had met him and shit. We just locked in real tight after that day until he passed. That’s my dog.
I would never have guessed it was the first day you’d met. You guys seem so similar—you both rap about street stuff but are also not afraid to be goofy.
Yeah, man. You got to be able to be confident to do shit like that.
A while ago, you mentioned The Coldest as a title for your upcoming debut album. Is that still the name?
No. We don’t know what we’re naming it. We just working on it.
How is it different than all the other projects you've released?
You take an album way more serious than any other body of work that you are about to release to the public. I feel like this is going to be my strongest body of work.
The “SkubaRu” video is one of my favorites. Tell me about that. You shot the whole video in front of a bodega. How’d you manage that? Did you know the owner?
No. I was in Kentucky. That was just a Speedway gas station. We pulled up. Herb [G Herbo] and his peoples were with me. We just did what the fuck we wanted to do real quick.
How would you define Detroit street rap? What makes it distinctive?
I don’t know what we would call our style. Our sound and the Bay is similar, but I would say the only thing that really differentiates it is our accents. So when I do the Detroit shit, it’s really just off the beat selection. Detroit-style raps go on certain beats. And then other songs, they’re intended for bigger demographics. I rap different—I do my other styles. The Detroit style of rap, there’s going to be at least one or two songs like that on every CD that I ever drop.
What are you working on right now?
I was booked all the way up to June, every weekend. And fucking Coronavirus hit. Fucked it up.
And most importantly, people want to know if you’ve got any new dances for upcoming videos?
No, man. The dances just come with the ooh-wop, man. That shit ain’t never choreographed or nothing, bro. Spur of the moment. I just wing it. I see people put a lot of thought into that shit for it to not even fucking matter or do nothing. I just wing it with a lot of shit, man. I don’t never plan none of the dances.