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Luke Benjamin’s pockets are full of money.
Big Baby Scumbag seems larger than life; so comfortable in his own image as to exceed it. This makes sense in part, if you’re approximating Big Baby Gucci Mane is one of the main data points. Though Baby is not as fleshed out a persona, he’s almost as magnetic. He raps with the urgency of a Meek Mill, RP McMurphy humor thrumming through his cocksure baritone, leavening where Meek simmers in a well-earned paranoia. Sometimes Big Baby, the golden fanged Floridian, is situated just outside of that Sunshine State rap bloc of Pump and Purpp, hewing closer to a pastiche of Black Kray and Lil B. Whereas Raider Klan trafficked in gothic hyper-reality, Big Baby raps like he asked a funhouse mirror, “who is the prettiest of them all,” and saw his own reflection as answer.
Big Baby is not here for subtlety or footholds, civility be damned. Like Tampa Bay, his home, his music can be garish and cartoonish and deliriously fun, upending tables at every turn rather than standing pat. “Dale Earnhardt” is the most potent dose of this, gleefully low-brow and absurd, head out of the sunroof as he whips around hairpin turns at 200 MPH. While some rappers skew brawny, or lithe, Big Baby is more propulsive, hurtling through his verses and stomping over sure-footed hooks.
His world is rendered in animated hues, draped in Nascar regalia and reeling from too many malty, caramel-toned drinks. Structure—tightly wound though it is—or fidelity to any particular narrative other than Big Baby himself, is tertiary, throttling energy and chirping, snappy bars substituting for a lack of body.
Much of Florida’s swampy corpus is blown out and withering, and this is the road where Big Baby diverges, over-enunciated rather than mealy, pressing his product into caffeinated gales. It’s rheumy and sun-shot rather than nocturnal, more Miami by day than twitchy over-crowded industry party until dawn. The whole act, you get the sense, is premised in immediacy, and thus there are no full Big Baby projects, just loosely collected singles.
A full-length will require more tricks, which he is more than capable of pulling off, but could water down the result. Big Baby thrives at his most maximal and punctuated. This is easy enough to say now, only some 2-3 years since Big Baby’s opening salvo, “Tha Trenchez,” which is more edged and tarred than recent cuts.
The best flourish or stylistic component is Big Baby himself, gregarious and charismatic, dripping with likability—an avant-garde extravagance and some sludgy sense of authenticity bolstering this. “Chirp Walk” and “Hammer Time” are the genesis of present-stage Big Baby, choruses reading like hexes on monotony, hypnotic to the point of actual hypnosis. The anaphora is scaffolding for other choices which are more unsteady: vocal oscillations and rhyme schemes so fitted as to become warped.
Big Baby the jester—no, manic host, no libertine—still only has minor peaks, of which “Hammer Time” is the most heady: humming bass falling like a wallop, just coexisting with a spectral key pattern, Big Baby hurling imagined epitaphs towards opps and boasting until it’s believed. “Jelly” is another zenith, and a counterpoint, protean but building and building until everything all of a sudden pulls apart. It’s a laundry list of favorites, animated and drawing from Pikachu, Blues Clues, and Remy (80 proof). It’s sunny almost to the point of arc eye, so surreally joyous that the line between character building and character has ceased to exist.
“Flex Music” is “Earnhardt’s” spiritual predecessor, dirt bikes filling in for racers, the whole thing attempting to reconstitute itself as something other, and simultaneously harder and shinier than hip-hop (hence the title). If we are to take this at its word, “Flex Music” is a fitting title for Big Baby’s mode, both luxury and low-brow, aspirational and happy in its place—literally, Tampa Bay, and figuratively, as a passed over phenom. It could be proletarian, even, if that could be reconciled with the decadence.
Though Baby has yet to crack the surface of any wide-ranging attention or acclaim, there are multiplying factors in his corner: a marked regional footprint and Awful Records affiliations. The latter a cozy fit, and hazarding something weighty. When Big Baby truly steps out, you won’t be able to miss him, filling the whole room and smirking through gold fronts. If rap is mostly myth-building then Scumbag is just a few more parts away.