“Wah-wah-wah, bitch I’m the Baby!” The first time I heard that bar, on Lil Baby’s “Yes Indeed,” I knew he was ready for a breakout year. The single featured a megastar (Drake), but Lil Baby had more than enough charisma to hold his own. From that moment forward, he's been on a winning streak, dropping Harder Than Ever in May, Drip Harder with Gunna in October, and Street Gossip in November. Baby has the work ethic of a seasoned artist, even though he doesn’t look a day over 18. (He says his name came from hanging around older friends as a youngin’.) Lil Baby showed early signs of star power when he was featured on Quality Control’s Control the Streets Vol. 1 mixtape last December, then he fulfilled that potential by focusing on his abilities as a solo artist in 2018. His rapping/singing cadence has become more flexible and versatile than ever, making him sound at home on any type of beat. He also rounded out his talents as a tag-team partner in 2018, most notably with fellow Best New Artist pick Gunna. To top it all off, Lil Baby has been a commercial success, ending the year with two Top 10 singles on the Billboard Hot 100. The aforementioned “Yes Indeed” peaked at No. 6, and “Drip Too Hard,” the standout track from Drip Harder, reached No. 4. To cap the year, his latest project, Street Gossip, just debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard Top 200. To put it simply: In 2018, Lil Baby was that dude. —Kiana Fitzgerald


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