Baby and Durk are like the musical Jordan and Pippen… sort of.
Lil Baby and Lil Durk: He’s the voice, and he’s the hero, as we’re informed on the introductory track on their collaborative album The Voice of the Heroes, nicknames that imply a certain level of authenticity mingled within their superstardom — and suggest a certain level of significance to the pairing of these two performers, like it was destined by fate or else written in the stars. It’s a partnership that couldn’t have happened at a better time in either artist’s career: Durk, a man who’s survived a disastrous major label flop and rebuilt his image and sound from the ground up — and who’s been riding high since securing a coveted Drake feature last summer — has finally achieved mainstream success, albeit partly from his close association with the late King Von. Baby’s trajectory has been more straightforward (one direction: up), but one also paved with hard work from his lowly beginnings as Quality Control’s towel boy. The fruits of their labors have finally paid off, and this is their victory lap; the fact that Durk also has a solo album titled The Voice helps to underscore how much this entire operation is an exercise in pure publicity, but the two have such strong, natural chemistry that it’s easy to ignore that.
In fact, it would be more accurate to say the two are in lockstep with one another, playing off each other’s vocal harmonies and verses with the type of tenacity not presented on one-off outings like these. Indeed, hearing Baby and Durk rap together is like watching Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen playing alongside one another on the ‘92 Chicago Bulls: bearing witness to the joint efforts of two young cultural sensations in their prime. For Jordan and Pippen, that manifested physically; for Durk and Baby, it’s artistically… sort of. They’re not exactly seeking to broaden their horizons here, but that’s easily for the best; they instead dig into their collective strengths and hone in on improving those together.
While the two operate with such ease around one another sonically, they also wisely know when to allow space for the individual. “Still Runnin,” which has Meek Mill show up for some reason, finds a triumphant Durk sound invigorated as he promises retribution against his enemies with a sinister resolve; Baby follows up after, who’s as determined, but more subdued. When one goes in, the other wisely ducks out; in this, they achieve a type of harmony missing from many projects of this ilk, often by sticking to the core dynamics of their respected stylings. “That’s Facts” has Baby vocally sauntering around Wheezy’s bouncing drum beat patterns, crafting a slick chorus from whistling and bragging about buying pretty girl’s lunches in the 5th grade. Durk follows up, creating his own sticky melody by complaining that Google doesn’t have his net worth right and laments that he fucks “too many bitches” who also happen to fuck Gunna, a rather odd predicament to be in. Which is to say that the two have limitations — Durk is a bit of a lothario, to put it mildly — and one’s mileage for this type of music will vary by how enthused they are for this newer wave of genuine “street” music. Admittedly, they’re not the greatest MCs of all time, but are also both very good at the things they do well, like flexing their bustdown pateks gifted from Young Thug (“2040”) and singing about staying abstinent during Ramadan (“Who I Want”). The result is plenty enough to help this fruitful partnership live up to its grandiose title’s namesake.
Published as part of Album Roundup — June 2021 | Part 3.