Lil Baby is an award-winning, certified platinum and gold rapper who has quite an extensive resume for being such a young star. His hard work and seemingly natural talent have paid off with several chart-topping hits and collaborations.
Life In Atlanta Before He Hit The Rap Scene
Born in Atlanta, Georgia, as Dominique Armani Jones in December of 1994, Lil Baby grew up in the Oakland City neighborhood on the west side. His father left the family when he was two years old, and his mother raised him and his two sisters on her own. He was a troublemaker in high school and eventually dropped out of Booker T. Washington High School in the ninth grade. It was in school where he earned the nickname Lil Baby, and it stuck. He explains: “I used to be going to sleep wherever, I used to leave my trash everywhere. Typical little baby shit. They start calling me Lil Baby.”
During his teens, he began selling marijuana as a way to provide for his family. “I knew all the drug dealers around my neighborhood,” he says. “When I was like 10, 11, I was hanging out with a dude who was like 17. He was getting money to buy a car, having his own little spot. So he was a lot of my motivation, too.” In 2012, he was arrested for possession with intent to sell. Facing 2 years in prison, his lawyer urged him to take a deal, but he refused. He found another attorney who was able to get him into a program that would only hold him in prison for a year. However, during his time in prison, he got into a fight with another prisoner over racial comments, earning him the full two years.
He didn’t let incarceration stop him from the game, however. Lil Baby had quite the reputation with other artists in Atlanta and was well-known as a dealer. It wasn’t long before he was selling weed to rappers in the studio and after their shows. In an interview with Rolling Stone, he says of this time, “They was getting money, but goddamn. They probably get like 30 grand a show, but they’re doing three, four shows, so they come back with 50, 60, and I might win the whole 50.”
During his time as a dealer, and especially when he was hanging around rap studios, Lil Baby’s future mentor, Coach K, took notice of him. Coach K was able to convince Lil Baby to learn how to rap, recruiting Young Thug and Gunna to help him out in the studio in 2017.
Mixtapes And The First Studio Album
In April of 2017, Lil Baby released the mixtape “Perfect Timing,” which exploded him onto the rap scene. With hundreds of thousands of views on YouTube and listens on SoundCloud, it was clear from the beginning that this young rapper was going to go places. His collaborations with Young Thug, SkullE, Lil Yachty, Gunna, and Young Scooter helped get this mixtape on the map.
Shortly after this release, Lil Baby dropped his second mixtape, “Harder Than Hard,” in July of 2017. Another mixtape, “2 The Hard Way,” followed in October of that same year. Still gathering traction, but not quite famous yet, Lil Baby kept working and released yet another mixtape in 2017, “Too Hard,” which was put out in December. This was his first real hit, which peaked at number 80 on the US charts and number 33 on the R&B charts. The hit single, “Freestyle,” went double platinum, and the track “All of a Sudden” on the same mixtape went Platinum.
Tracklist for Too Hard
- To the Top
- All of a Sudden (feat. Moneybagg Yo)
- Money Forever (feat. Gunna)
- Best of Me
- Ride My Wave
- Sum More (feat. Lil Yachty)
- Going For It
- Slow Mo
- Trap Star
- Eat or Starve (feat. Rylo Rodriguez)
- Vision Clear (feat. Lavish the MDK)
- Dive In
- Stick on Me (feat. Rylo Rodriguez)
After laying the groundwork for a solid career with all of these mixtapes, Lil Baby released his first studio album, “Harder Than Ever,” which debuted at number three on the US Billboard 200 chart. This was his first top ten debut, and it sold over 71,000 units in the first week alone. The album went certified platinum in February of 2020.
Tracklist for Harder Than Ever
- I’m Straight
- Exotic (feat. Starlito)
- Yes Indeed (with Drake)
- Bank (feat. Moneybagg Yo)
- Throwing Shade (feat. Gunna)
- First Class
- Right Now (feat. Young Thug)
- Life Goes On (feat. Gunna and Lil Uzi Vert)
- Transporter (feat. Offset)
- Fit In
- Boss Bitch (feat. Hoodrich Pablo Juan)
- Never Needed No Help
The songs “Southside” and “Yes Indeed” landed on the charts as singles at number 79 and number 6, respectively. “Southside” went gold and “Yes Indeed” was certified 8 times platinum, making it his biggest hit to date. This album also won Lil Baby his first award, winning in the category for best new artist at the BET music awards.
Lil Baby’s Hits Career Continues
In February of 2020, Lil Baby released his second studio album, “My Turn.” This album debuted at number 13 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and then jumped to the number one spot within months, making it his first number 1 hit. Not only did the studio album hit the charts, but a total of 14 songs charted as singles themselves.
Tracklist for My Turn
- Get Ugly
- Heatin Up (with Gunna)
- Grace (with 42 Dugg)
- Live Off My Closet (feat. Future)
- Same Thing
- Emotionally Scarred
- Commercial (feat. Lil Uzi Vert)
- Forever (feat. Lil Wayne)
- Can’t Explain
- No Sucker (with Moneybagg Yo)
- Sum 2 Prove
- We Should (with Young Thug)
- Catch The Sun (from Queen & Slim: The Soundtrack)
- Gang Signs
- Forget That (with Rylo Rodriguez)
- Social Distancing
- All In
- Low Down
- Get Money
- We Paid (with 42 Dugg)
The songs “Whoa,” “Sum 2 Prove,” and “Emotionally Scarred” all went platinum, with “Whoa” getting certified three times platinum. Not bad for a sophomore effort from this young rapper.
Still making music, Lil Baby released the single track “The Bigger Picture” in 2020 after the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor at the hands of police. The song hit the Billboard charts at number three and earned RIAA Gold status. The rapper used this song not only to speak to his own experience with police brutality but to give back to the community. He donated the proceeds from this single to the Bail Project, the National Association of Black Journalists, and the legal team representing Breonna Taylor’s family in her wrongful death suit.
Overall, Lil Baby’s nascent career shows a lot of promise for the future. He’s been on the charts a total of 26 times including albums, singles, and collaborations. His commitment to the community where he grew up, his ability to draw on his own life experiences to create his art and hone his talent, and his seemingly inexhaustible work ethic as demonstrated by his release schedule, all show that he’s one rising rap star to keep an eye on in the coming years.