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Baby Keem: The Melodic Blue review – arguably the best rap album of 2021 | Rap

Like a pre-costume superhero learning to control the lightning that pours from his hands, this electric display of youthful mic prowess from the 21-year-old Las Vegas rapper makes for arguably the genre’s best album this year. The lyricism is about what’s newly and immediately in front of him, whether it’s women, money or his own skill. Complicating the spunk and braggadocio, the dominant theme is his desire for trust in a romantic partner, or indeed anyone; the naive tenor of a line like “I feel like everyone I meet confuse my heart” reveals one foot still in childhood.

The mentor figure in his coming-of-age tale is Kendrick Lamar, and their track Family Ties has been nominated for two Grammys (Keem is also up for best new artist), but their other collaboration Range Brothers is even better: “Every day, the hate restored and the faith get short,” Lamar warns in a lofty treatise on fame. Keem bats him away: “Fuck that, let me get some too!”

Range brothers indeed: like Lamar, what marks Keem out is the span of his skill, and while the elder star may still have the edge in lyricism, political acumen and technicality (and has audibly influenced his young charge’s flow), Keem can sing better, and outstrips Lamar with his gift for vocal melody. There are so many incredible hooks in different modes of catchiness: Drakeian crooning (Lost Souls, Scars), Young Thug or Future-style Atlantan fantasias (Cocoa), Mo Bamba-ish lairy taunting (South Africa), and even the monotone syllables of “du-rag ac-tivity” are a minimalist earworm. Baby Keem is marked for greatness.



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