'The Melodic Blue' is Baby Keem's debut album and it's surprisingly more boring than crazy, with Baby Keem creating basic trap music and not much else. Most of these songs lack Baby Keem's fun personality and cool cadence, being much more emotionless which was something I wasn't worried about much before the album dropped, but something I should've seen coming as it was teased through the two singles. What I was expecting was some messy experimentation, but looks like Baby Keem played things safe and chose to appeal towards the mainstream audience, moving towards a more emo style as can be seen on songs like 'scars' and 'first order of business' which I feel doesn't clash well with his emotionless attitude on the album, leading to some empty tracks that lack life. Sixteen songs wasn't way long at all as I barely noticed the time passing, but I do have to admit that I didn't remember much as the album is super forgettable, especially during the middle with nothing popping out on songs like 'lost souls' and 'cocoa', not being creative at all. The songs are either too short or too long, with the amount of beat switches on the long songs making me feel like Baby Keem was just combining unfinished songs together cause he didn't know how to finish them, being a factor that bothered me throughout the album as just when I settle, the beat suddenly switches and my vibe is killed, while the short songs are sweet but make me always want more. Baby Keem really didn't tap into all his talent on 'The Melodic Blue' as most of these songs sound more like demos than complete songs, with his more melodic approach not working as well as I was expecting as he just doesn't have enough melodies to keep the album exciting while loosing the heart of his music, his crazy, fun charisma.
The vocals from Baby Keem are below average as he moves more to a melodic side compared to his vocals in the past, while sounding super lifeless on purpose which doesn't lead to the best clash of styles, being a creative decision that I last observed in $NOT. Baby Keem doesn't just bring his melodic vocals to the album, but makes sure to also bring his classic rapping vocals here and there, but even then, he doesn't sound excellent as his rapping vocals just have the automatic tendency to tire the listener and I'm even sure that Baby Keem realizes that so he puts plenty of effort into adding variety on those rap-focused tracks. The effort that he put into adding variety, lead to some unique vocals that carry some inspiration from other artists such as Kendrick Lamar and Playboi Carti, which I can't say I'm a huge fan of as it just makes him sound really awkward and I'd rather just listen to his regular rapping vocals even if they tend to get stale during some areas of the album. Now, Baby Keem's melodic vocals, the vocal style that the album is based around and the vocal style that Baby Keem uses the most on the album, something we initially witnessed on 'no sense', a song I really hoped would make the album as his vocals on that were magnificent, better than the melodic vocals we witness on this album as the only song that even comes close to the quality of his vocals on that track would be '16'. Baby Keem going down a melodic route is something I supported as it would help him move away from any comparisons to his cousin, which the album achieves as it's clear how different both artists are after listening to this album, but the problem with his melodic vocals are that he just doesn't have enough melodies to keep my attention, although he does try a few completely unexpected melodies which either sound absolutely amazing or straight-out trash. For example, the chorus of 'gorgeous' was a melody I was on the fence about, but after a couple of more listens, I realized that it was a garbage melody disguised, if that makes sense, while on the other hand, the melody on the chorus of 'south africa' is something people haven't been a fan of, but I really enjoy the monotonous nature of the melody as it blends beautifully with his lifeless vocals on the verses. So Baby Keem choosing to sound lifeless, I still have no idea why he chose to do that as at least an artist like $NOT has built his own artistic identity around the lifelessness of his vocals, while Baby Keem has basically done the opposite, which is building his vocal identity around his frisky charisma, what was the heart of his music, with him just loosing the heat of his music by going down this lifeless road. I was skeptical about it when he initially teased this changed in direction on 'durag activity' and even came around to love it, but after an entire album with the lifelessness, I can't help but say that this doesn't feel true to Baby Keem as he throws away all his progress over the last two years, starting with a fresh palate, sounding like an amateur as artists like $NOT have been perfecting the lifeless nature over the last year and have come close to perfecting the sound, mixing melodies into it just like Baby Keem did. The autotune used is almost awful as along with the already lifeless nature of his vocals, it makes him sound like a literal robot, not what I want to listen to when I'm listening to music, something that can clearly be seen on 'scars', disappointing me as seeing that he's been working with members of Cactus Jack who are arguably the masters of autotune, you would've though his use of it would be amazing. Overall, Baby Keem's vocals had the potential to be perfect if the lifeless rap vocals were based on 'durag activity' and melodic vocals were based on 'no sense', but instead Baby Keem tried to be a bit too diverse and it didn't lead to the best outcomes as everything I loved about his vocals were taken away, leaving his lifeless, lazy vocals behind.
The production on the album was close to awful as none of the beats really caught my attention and were as lifeless as Baby Keem, not to mention that they were lacking creativity too as they were as basic as trap beats could get. Most of the album is self-produced by Baby Keem which is a pretty risky move to make with your debut album as I would usually suggest that you're absolutely confident about rapping and producing your own music before you make that move and even though he's managed to form a connection between his performances and the production, I can't say that it's a fascinating one as it just makes him music more boring as I feel like he didn't understand that if he was going to use lifeless vocals, he shouldn't match that using lifeless beats as it'll come together to create a borefest. Can't forget to bring up the constant beat switches, I wonder what the producers were thinking when they came up with those beats as I just hope that they know that it doesn't make them any more creative or experimental and that all it does is make me even more bored. Like I mentioned earlier, the beats do an amazing job at irritating me as right when I start getting used to a beat, we receive a random beat switch that doesn't suit the song at all and ruins my vibe. There's really nothing I find remotely experimental about the beats, which weirdly many people disagree with as I've seen so many people say that this is the most experimental trap album since WLR which I strongly disagree with as the beats are just generic trap beats that have got almost nothing good about them. Take 'cocoa' for example, the beat is trash, no offense, with the messy, quirky instrumental managing to ruin any potential that the track had, having repetitive, mediocre drums, not suiting Don Toliver even in the slightest way as he stands out like a sore thumb even though his performance is pleasant. 'scars', which samples the drums from Kanye's 'Love Lockdown', a sample that works spectacularly as adds some thrill to the track, while the piano is pretty bad, a bit too plain, carried by the sample. The instrumentals on the album aren't too bad, at least when you compare them to the drums which are a completely story, consisted of uninteresting drum choices and basic patterns. Coincidentally, the three songs that DJ Dahi produced ended up as my favorite songs (all which I gave 100s), with him basically being the savior of the beats on the album. DJ Dahi is likely someone you recognize from Kendrick Lamar's music, producing plenty of tracks for him, managing to make trap beats that were some of the best I've heard all year while additionally having significant chemistry along with Baby Keem. Starting with 'scapegoats', a track teased in the announcement trailer for 'The Melodic Blue', being the first song that DJ Dahi produced on the album, with the song using a stunning sample, 'redemtion' by serpentwithfeet, probably my favorite sample on the album, supported by subtle hums which serve as a surface for Baby Keem to rap on, while the outro uses a decent, delicate piano instrumental, with the beat kinda carrying Baby Keem. 'Vent', the second song produced by DJ Dahi, starting with a sweet, satisfying synthesizer that reminds me a little of the ones used by Carti and Trippie, while what sounds like a rock influenced, rough instrumental comes in to replace the synthesizer, sounding super hard, while the drums on the track are perfect, setting a statement as soon as they appear, seeming to be crafted for concerts and mosh pits as they stomp down throughout the track, creating dents into the beat, helping Baby Keem create hype as I can't wait to hear this track one day at a concert as it'd go absolutely crazy. Finally, we reach '16', my favorite beat and song on the album, with a piano and pad coming together to create a pretty, peaceful atmosphere, calming my nerves after releasing my adrenaline on the last track, with the drums on the track being perfect, especially the claps as a creative clap choice and pattern is used, although I can't forget to mention the gorgeous, glitchy effects, basically being the x-factor of the track, blowing me away with how beautiful they sounded. Overall, the production on the album was not good at all as almost all attempts at making the generic trap beats sound special fell flat, although at least DJ Dahi served as the savior and produced three stunning beats.
The lyrics from Baby Keem are not bad but they're certainly not anywhere near to Kendrick Lamar lyrically, although that would be an unfair comparison as they both make significantly different type of music, with a more fair comparison being against other melodic rappers, being clearly better than most of the current melodic rappers when it comes to lyrics but again, he's nowhere near creative generally when it comes to his lyrics. Baby Keem is basically a mainstream female rapper when it comes to lyrics (don't mean to target mainstream female rappers but I hope you get what I mean with that comparison), with 90% of his lyrics seeming to be about sex, a topic that doesn't interest me usually excluding a few artists, such as Megan Thee Stallion, Doja Cat, and Lil Durk, with Baby Keem often frustrating me with his lyrics as they're really tiring to listen to as I just feel like he's got so much more potential. The best part about Baby Keem's lyrics are that they feel a lot more authentic than someone like Lil Tecca's lyrics, still not painting his own life though, with his acting while rapping being some of the best I've seen in a melodic rapper (unless he's not cap rapping) and maybe Lil Tecca can learn something from him. At the same time, Baby Keem's melodies aren't that nice and are an acquired taste, initially sounding quite underwhelming but are extremely experimental, eventually sounding excellent and even though that may not seem like an issue, it is as in the modern world, no one's got the attention span to listen to the same song over and over again, hoping that it grows on them, with the melodies needing to connect instantly, something Lil Tecca has the natural talent for and could teach Baby Keem. I think that we can all agree that Baby Keem's flows are really repetitive and especially annoying as they're often whiny, not being something you'd want to hear frequently as Baby Keem uses the same stale flow on almost every single one of his verses. There's a high amount of repetition, although just like the melodies, you start to see past them and into the actual music, not bothering me that much. Another topic that Baby Keem touches is gangs as he often talks about opps and drops other violence related bars, but never really dives into them and tells us any of his experiences, always choosing to return to the topic of women. We also receive two to three tracks that look like they could be freestyled such as 'trademark usa' and 'scapegoats', and if they actually are freestyled, I'm fascinated as some of his best lyrics are ironically present on both of these two tracks. A lack of intimate moments can be felt as I feel like Baby Keem has built a shell all around him and isn't allowing anyone to break through, at least until the last track as I feel like there's so much more he could write about instead of these lyrically light topics, with the last track perfectly covering his potential as it's the only song that sounds entirely genuine, straight from his heart, probably why it sounds significantly more gorgeous than the other songs, with Baby Keem seeming to vent, letting out all his feelings that he had kept hidden throughout the album, with this track probably being the only song that's not about lust, but about love. Overall, Baby Keem's writing may be exciting to you if you enjoy music about sex, but it's certainly not for me as I feel like Baby Keem's wearing a mask to hide his himself, not revealing his true thoughts through his lyrics, something I've noticed a bunch of melodic rappers have been doing as it helps them appeal to the mainstream more easily but does take away from their art.
The features on the album were pretty bad and considering the big names he has on the album, it's quite a disappointment to see these features wasted although all the blame can't be put on Baby Keem. We received two Kendrick Lamar features, three if you include 'vent' where he delivers a short but satisfying performance that makes an instant impact by hyping you up with the presence of his vocals, with 'family ties' being the first collaboration we received from the pair, dropping around two weeks before the album dropped as we got to witness Kendrick Lamar's long-awaited comeback and even though the song was wonderful, I feel like Kendrick Lamar stole Baby Keem's spotlight as the return of Kendrick Lamar was what people were focusing on, not Baby Keem, even though I thought that Baby Keem did have the better performance. I'm sure the track brought a ton of new listeners and buzz to Baby Keem, which he eventually got to capitalize on with the release of the album, but my problem was that it didn't belong on 'The Melodic Blue' as why would you want to hear a random track, that's not melodic at all, where Baby Keem and Kendrick Lamar are rapping on completely different beats excluding the approximate fifteen second outro, seeming to be a track taken off from Kendrick Lamar's upcoming album combined to a track that Baby Keem was already working on. At least 'family ties' was a fire track, but I just can't say the same for 'range brothers' as it's just a really bad mess. First of all, why was the first part of the track present where Baby Keem's rapping on a completely different beat? Baby Keem's performance on that part was horrible so there should've been no reason for that part to be included on the album, probably would be a worst song of the year contender if the song consisted only of that part. Secondly and most importantly, the whole song felt like a meme or a failed joke as Kendrick Lamar couldn't stop playing around and adding weird ad-libs, trying to match Baby Keem's naturally fun personality, with his attempts at trying to be funny failing miserably at least for me as I just didn't find it funny and made me feel like Kendrick was just messing up Baby Keem's album. Additionally, like I said before, both songs just don't seem to fit the theme of the album, being random bangers, ruining any momentum that Baby Keem got going. At the same time, I can't only blame the two Kendrick tracks for falling out of the theme of the album, or at least the theme that I sense, as the album isn't as melodic as the title may suggest or you'd assume, falling more into the trap genre when you take a step back and look at it, although when you do take off the tracks with the features, 80% of the songs have some type of melodic element present so the two Kendrick tracks still do stand out from the rest of the songs awkwardly. 'cocoa' has got to be a contender for the worst song that Don Toliver's been part of as it's not completely his fault for the failure of the track, but he definitely still does play a role as the beat is already awful while Baby Keem's performance feels like a parody of a six year old rapping, basically being bad, while Don Toliver comes out of nowhere and doesn't come near to fitting the track, weirdly rapping with a significant amount of autotune that contrasts the raw beat in an unpleasant way, not suiting the song in the slightest as he doesn't put an ounce of effort into trying to adjust. On the other hand, Travis Scott provides the best feature on the album, rapping on another raw beat that you usually wouldn't see him rapping on, adjusting amazingly as he sounds like he's evolving, using his autotune excellently, matching Baby Keem's lyrical style magnificently too although coming up with better lines, with the chemistry between the components of the track being cool. Brent Faiyaz sent Baby Keem a last minute verse for 'lost souls' and sadly, it didn't make it but I'm sure he would've been exactly what the song needed as I just felt like the song was missing something, especially the second half of the song after the beat switch. In an Instagram story that was soon deleted, $NOT teased a collaboration with him and Baby Keem by writing '$NOT X Baby Keem?',also promoting Baby Keem's album as soon as it dropped which makes me assume that they've got a collaboration and I feel like it was a missed opportunity to not add the collaboration on this project as Baby Keem is basically using the style that $NOT used on 'Beautiful Havoc', going down the same lifeless melodic trap route as I honestly would've taken the $NOT feature instead of both Kendrick Lamar features, just because I'm that sure that $NOT would've been a significantly better addition that album as he actually would've made the most out of his feature and fit the album/theme perfectly. Overall, the features frustrate me as they sounded like they didn't care at all, additionally not fitting the style of the album the best, although at least they gave Baby Keem a significant amount of exposure.
2020 XXL Freshman, Baby Keem, has always been an inconsistent artist personally for me as there are times where I find his music tedious and other times where I find his music tremendous. I applaud him for taking the risk of making major changes to his artistic identity on his debut album as it's risk that can turn out to create something beautiful or disastrous, with 'The Melodic Blue' leaning towards the disastrous side. I will admit that Baby Keem does a decent job at fooling listeners into thinking that he's doing something experimental, or in other words, crafting a new sound, but that's not exactly what he does on the album, instead his shift in artistic identity makes people think otherwise as if you honestly take a moment to think, what is he doing that no one's done before? Adding a billion beat switches, wouldn't consider it as experimental and anyway done a billion times before. Bring in a lifeless attitude, we've already got $NOT and Skies plus it doesn't suit him at all. I mean the only thing that I'd consider experimental about this is the quirky melodies, especially on the choruses, but that's just not enough to consider the album as experimental. Even though this may not be experimental, the album is definitely different compared to any other trap release this year as it seems to belong in the middle of melodic (pop) rap (Lil Mosey, Lil Tecca, The Kid LAROI) and melodic trap (Hotboii, YTB Trench) although at the end of the day, I felt like this area was best left unexplored by Baby Keem.
Overall, 'The Melodic Blue' leaves me feeling blue as just when I thought I was starting to enjoy Baby Keem's music and understand his hype, he reminds me how annoying as artist he can be, making horrible decisions while drifting away from the melodic gold he hit with 'no sense' and '16', using vocals that don't feel right, production that sadly sucks (no offence) excluding the DJ Dahi produced songs, and lyrics that are as lifeless as his vocals.
Best Tracks: 16, vent, scapegoats, family ties, pink panties, booman
Worst Tracks: gorgeous, lost souls, cocoa