“We Were Always Punchline Rappers”: An Interview With BabyTron

Kevin Crandall taps in with BabyTron, the Detroit staple currently on a scam rap bender.
By    April 14, 2022

Photo via BabyTron/ Instagram

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Balaclavas and trucker hats. When you see BabyTron around, the odds of him rocking one of these two headgears to cover his mat of wayward black hair are pretty strong. In the warmer months, it’s the trucker hat that takes center stage. In the bitter Michigan winters, the balaclava (and the occasional ski mask) reigns supreme.

The Motor City seems to have a vice-like grip on the game these days, with the likes of Babyface Ray and Rio Da Yung OG (Free Rio) dropping outlandish punchlines while Boldy James spits sermons over Alchemist beats, and the Bruiser Brigade manipulates dictionaries and minds. BabyTron commands his space in the first, having steadily climbed the charts with his scam rap product since his debut, Bin Reaper, in 2018. Since then he has become one of Detroit’s foremost chart-toppers, breaking personal Billboard records in the top thirty with his last three albums — Luka Troncic, Bin Reaper 2, and Megatron — and pushing out music faster and more frequently than most anyone in the industry. This breakneck release frequency, as well as the dependability of his bars to heighten anyone’s caption game, has garnered BabyTron a zealously loyal fan base that floods his mentions and comment sections with flames, collab ideas, and shouts of ‘GOAT.’ Tracks with Lil Yachty, performances alongside Sada Baby and Danny Brown, and his perpetual presence on release radars have expedited his ascent and following, cementing him as one of the hottest up-and-coming names in the Midwest and in hip hop.

BabyTron’s most recent scam rap bender has seen three solo albums, three collab projects (one with StanWill and two with Trdee respectively), two albums with his high school rap trio Shittyboyz, and dozens of music videos. When we talked he was fresh off the release of Bin Reaper 2, a sequel to “the most nostalgic BabyTron there is” as he explained it, and a landmark of success in the young career of the Ypsi wizard. The epilogue to his debut is BabyTron’s first solo record with EMPIRE, marking his entrance in the major label scene and a new chapter in his rise. Bin Reaper 2 is a robust 27 tracks, making it not only the second Bin Reaper, but also “2x,” as BabyTron likes to put it. Despite this, BabyTron keeps his bars lean and his punchlines sharp every line, leaving you gasping for breath and murmuring that bar—or twelve—that entered your head and never left. “Double cup, deuce of Wocky, nah, this ain’t Biggby’s coffee” had me looking on Expedia looking to fly back to Michigan for some Biggby’s at 9 p.m.

BabyTron’s spitfire punchlines showcase his wit, his apathetic delivery highlights his ability to pierce through even the most suffocating of beats, and his matchless voice magnifies his recognizability on the mic. When you hear that drawl, you know it’s BabyTron. With bars ranging from shouts to Mario characters (“Amiri sneaks with the skeleton, I look like Dry Bones”) to the litter of Harry Potter drops in “Half-Blood Prince” (my favorite being “Riding ’round with a Draco, Malfoy”), BabyTron reps his generation and the culture of us who only know the 21st century. On the mic his aim is to “make some shit where you would be like ‘damn, he said that,’” and having an arsenal of culture like BabyTron possesses is lethal.

The scam rapper who used to dream of going to the league now practically lives out of the studio, constantly making tracks, pushing out videos, and engaging with fans online; he truly breathes this shit. I had the opportunity to get on the phone with BabyTron right after the release of Bin Reaper 2. While he cruised the streets of Atlanta, we chatted about the impact of this record, his love of the NBA, childhood cartoons, Detroit, and the creative powers of weed. Kevin Crandall

Your dad rapped a bit, yeah?

BabyTron: Yeah a lil bit back in the day.

Did he influence your affinity to rap? Did you rap because he rapped or did you kind of find it yourself?

BabyTron: Yeah I feel like he did, you know just riding in the car he was listening to rap. If he was listening to something else and my people was listening to something else I probably would’ve been on some whole other shit. I grew up listening to rap and shit, that’s what was in the household.

What was he playing?

BabyTron: Some classics. Jay-Z, Nas, I got all them motherfucker rappers. Biggie. I could name those rappers all day bro for sure.

Did any of them stick out for you?

BabyTron: I used to listen to 50 Cent a lot when I was younger.

What about 50 stuck out to you?

BabyTron: I don’t know, that shit was just hard. You could tell that shit was some old rap. Something different for sure. I used to listen to all his shit. Watch the movie, all that shit. I was a 50 fan for sure when I was a kid. Get Rich or Die Tryin, that bitch a classic for sure. I don’t know how high up but it’s a top album for sure, you gotta put that up there as one of them.

Any Detroit legends up there for you?

BabyTron: I grew up listening to Blade Icewood, Street Lord Juan, Doughboyz Cashout, Team Eastside, BandGang; I grew up on all that shit.

What stuck out about them to you? Or was it just what people were listening to?

BabyTron: I mean it was definitely what people were listening to where I was from growing up at the time. But that shit was just hard bro, like shit.

Are you hoping to be that for kids growing up in Detroit and Ypsilanti right now?

BabyTron: Yeah, we tryna make some legendary shit and be successful.

What was your first memory of music?

BabyTron: Making music outta Stan Will’s closet with the other ShittyBoyz. Just being in high school cookin up the music and shit. That’s definitely my first memory.

Were you guys like “the rappers” of your high school?

BabyTron: Definitely. The last year, year and a half for sure. We were what the kids in school were listening to. That’s when I knew to take it seriously.

Did you ever have doubts during that grind or did everyone bumping you at school help you to know that this is what you should be doing?

BabyTron: That’s really what it was, the support. I definitely got better over time, but I feel like that definitely pushed me to do what I need to do. I feel like I wasn’t ever completely terrible, but I always felt like I had to keep pushing. Once I got to the point where I felt like I really had it, that’s when I knew I made it. You just keep working to a certain point.

Do you think your work ethic helps you surpass people that come by it more naturally?

BabyTron: Hell yeah bro, I push out so much music. My fans love that shit so I’m always trying to just keep them happy. I’m in the studio every day, so I think that really helps me push out shit. I just keep practicing and practicing and practicing. Practice makes perfect.

You used to write but now you just go in the booth and freestyle yeah?

BabyTron: Yeah. I still rap about the same shit but I figured out how to piece it together better. It just clicked one day. I feel like we was punching in one song, me and the Shittyboyz, and I just liked how that shit felt more. It was easier to rock a beat.

When did you first start smoking?

BabyTron: Everyone had hit once but I didn’t start really smoking for real until right after quarantine. Like a chimney for real, I just be floorin’. It helps me be creative. I feel like it puts me in that mode for sure.

Your Steven A. sample bite was an incredible start to Luka Troncic, what made you want to put it in?

BabyTron: Well actually that was my manager’s idea, Lando. I just wanted it to be a regular beat switch cause the first Cheat Code was just a regular switch, it was like two beats. That’s why I named Cheat Code 2 ‘Cheat Code 2’ because it had two beats. But he was like “naw you gotta find a clip of them talking,” like, you know, IDing Luka. Stephen A be the best muthafucka talkin that shit on ESPN to me. We knew what we wanted to put there, we just had to find the right thing. We searched for like 5, 10 minutes and that was the one Lando picked that went off, so we ran with it.

Are you a Pistons fan?

BabyTron: Yeah I fuck with the Pistons. I think this is the year they start coming back to life. It’s been a drought but we got the 1st pick, we got a good, star rookie. I feel like it’s turning around. We’ve been moving in the right direction in a lot of other things, I hope the Pistons can.

You dropped “Cade Cunningham” a week after the draft, did you get into the booth right after they drafted him?

BabyTron: What’s crazy is the Pistons staff had invited me and my manager to the draft night party watching on the big screen there. We had seen him pull out the bus and in my head—I don’t know if I said it out loud, but the next day I went to the studio and started making a song called “Cade Cunningham,” incorporating that bus shit. “Hop out the bus.” I had made it the next day—day after the draft. Then the day after I shot the video. I be in the studio every day so I just needed to make it fit at that point in time. We follow each other on Instagram and he commented flames on it. That’s hard for sure.

Speaking of videos you said you push out like 3-4 a week, yeah?

BabyTron: A good week, month for sure. I’d say two for sure every week; you can definitely catch me dropping four a week though.

Do you aim to get a video out for every song?

BabyTron: That be my plan in the beginning but you know life be so hectic. I shoot as much as I can for sure though. I shot half of Luka Troncic and that was 24 songs so I wanted to at least try and shoot half.

When you shoot videos do you just shoot wherever you happen to be at the time?

BabyTron: That’s how it is sometimes. More recently I’ve been trying to come up with spots and shit, it’s harder to plan. But I’ve shot a lot at the studio I’ve been at. Gas stations—they be like in the moment videos, like let’s shoot this shit. Just scenic; not in the studio. Like, you ain’t seen this background yet, you ain’t seen me out here. Sometimes it just depends on the day, or if it’s planned ahead me and my caravan will figure shit out.

Does it get tiring moving around or do you live off that shit?

BabyTron: Naw, I like moving around. I mean it is tiring but you can always take a little break and then get right back to it. 28 on the charts, that’s the record. On the interview, too. That’s hard.

What does Bin Reaper 2 mean to your career?

BabyTron: This tape is for sure a milestone. It’s the second Bin Reaper, you know. Bin Reaper’s the most nostalgic BabyTron there is and this the second one, so this means a lot of course. Then you look and Bin Reaper was 13-14 tracks and this is double that. It is really Bin Reaper 2, like two times. That’s how I look at it. It’s definitely a milestone. First album with EMPIRE so shit going right.

Where do you think you’re going from here?

BabyTron: To the top, frankly. To the top.

I know you got Lil Yachty on Bin Reaper and then brought him back for Bin Reaper 2, what has his presence in your career meant to you?

BabyTron: Yeah I had to bring him back. He’s a big part, bro. You see anybody who got Lil Yachty on they track, that makes somebody feel like they made it big. Someone like him knows that he’s in a position where he can put somebody on and he doesn’t have to, so I respect that shit. That’s love for sure. He had the Michigan Boat Boy tape. That was important for sure. I mean, we were already climbing to the top and that was just like another push. It was the right thing at the right time, we did everything correctly for everybody I feel like.

Is there anyone in the Detroit scene that you haven’t worked with or have worked with that you’re looking to tap into or tap into again?

BabyTron: Yeah definitely some more shit with Miles Bridges. We got to. I see fans tweeting like “BabyTron x Miles Bridges on the track” with a picture of Jordan and Kobe. I’m like shit, they think we a duo. That’s hard though, I fuck with that shit. I knew the song was hard, we gotta make some more shit for sure. I had seen a lot of people telling me, “you gotta work with Miles Bridges,” so I just wanted to make it happen. I mean shit I had to get him on there, and he’s from Michigan too. Actually, on Bin Reaper 2 I thought that was the most important moment because everyone who wanted to see it was going to.

The song with him is LaVar Ball, you think he’s shown it to LaMelo?

BabyTron: He got to! That was my idea. That was the whole point. He’s gotta show it. LaVar gotta respect it too. We could have named it after anybody else but we picked him.

Looking at your pop culture samples I know you sample a lot of Nick shit. Growing up did you watch Nick and Cartoon Network a lot?

BabyTron: I think I watched all the cartoons back then so definitely Nick and Cartoon Network.

Do you have a favorite?

BabyTron: I loved Spongebob. That might have been my favorite. I ain’t gonna lie Spongebob is nice as hell. People say I got a lot of Spongebob punchlines but I don’t really even notice. Spongebob is definitely my favorite though. There were some other cartoons I watched too but I can’t give them the favorite title. I just watched too much Spongebob, it was on too much when I was young. Like that shit’s on all fuckin’ day bro. I don’t even think you could avoid Spongebob at that time.

Any favorite characters?

BabyTron: Man they’re all funny as hell, I ain’t really got a favorite one. Spongebob probably, but like I fuck with Mr. Krabs too. Silly as hell. He’s just greedy as hell. That shit—it’s funny how they incorporate that shit into a children’s cartoon. It’s not just too kiddy where you’re like “turn that shit off.” You’ll look around and catch yourself watching it for like five minutes like “what the hell.”

It’s quotable as hell too.

BabyTron: Yeah a lot of people know about Spongebob, especially from my generation. You definitely incorporate a lot of Spongebob punchlines and a lot of people are gonna know what the fuck you’re talking about.

Speaking of punchlines, you say you’re going straight IG captions every time. When you were making music in high school were you guys trying to make every bar a punchline or did that just happen naturally?

BabyTron: I feel like we were—not trying to out-rap each other, but you were trying to be on the same level as all your people, so everyone was just escalating, elevating at the same time and you were just getting better, progressing at the same time, learning how to rap. That was always how we looked at it, trying to make some shit where you would be like “damn, he said that.” We were never tryna melodize our voices or nothing. We were always punchline rappers.

When you link up with rappers, are a lot of them from the Detroit Metro Area?

BabyTron: A lot of them do be, you know, because muthafuckas live there. They there every night, but it’s like you’re trying to build the scene with you. We tryna build each other—it’s all love. There’s a lot of people that are really all cool. It’s one part of the muthafuckin country y’know. It’s one city. Muthafuckas be knowin’ each other.

It feels like you guys are the spot right now for regional rap.

BabyTron: Yeah cause we too deep. Lineup too deep, too strong. Too much shit coming out of here right now. There’s one person I know from Grand Rapids, Akbandamot. He’s going crazy out there. Then you got Flint with Krispylife Kidd, YSR Gramz, RMC Mike, Rio Da Yung OG—Free Rio—YN Jay. I work with all of them. Too many to name in Detroit bro, too many to name.

And the style is so unique. You could play 100 songs and if 5 are outta Detroit anyone who fucks with your scene could pick them out so easily.

BabyTron: Yeah, it’s just crazy. It’s just flavors bro. It’s the spot right now like you said. There’s a lot of people tryna copy the style, sound like you, but there’s only one Michigan bro. One Detroit. One Flint. One Mitten. You can tell a muthafucka from there rappin on that shit. That shit we tryna put on for it, anyone from this bitch.

Do you fuck with the other lanes of Detroit rap—Bruiser Brigade and Danny Brown and shit?

BabyTron: Yeah I’m aware of it for sho; they gotta keep pushing. They on they own shit and you gotta respect it. You gotta make music for you and the people who like your music—you gotta be yourself. It might not be street rap but it’s still Detroit rap.

Have you ever thought about linking up with them and doing something?

BabyTron: I’m definitely tryin’ to get some shit in with Danny Brown. I was talking with ZelooperZ about making some shit. I fuck with ZelooperZ. I’m open to all shit bro, find middle ground and go dumb. All types of different people listening to my music.

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