The Melodic Blue is like a recipe to potentially make a great feast but when you taste the final result you have this impression that some ingredient is missing or that the cooking is not necessarily mastered. If Baby Keem didn't succeed in crossing this step, there are still some satisfying points if not a really thrilling album experience...
Hykeem Jamaal Carter, better known as Baby Keem, is purely that kind of new wave rapper. That is to say a modern artist rather versatile, relaxed and melodic who surveys poignant storytellings with sometimes a touch of humor and irony. If for the moment he is still a rookie, the Carson native seems to promise a bright future. In itself, although he is already popular and cousin to Kendrick Lamar, Baby Keem shows that he has the potential to go further than most viral rappers of the moment. To give a more personal example, I discovered Baby Keem in the summer of 2019 with first Orange Soda, a "freestyle" that quickly convinced me to check out his Die for My Bitch mixtape. I was right to believe him, but you know that nowadays you shouldn't rush to deliver hasty verdicts with the current Hip Hop period. It takes time and patience. So keeping a close eye on his evolution, time has made Baby Keem do everything to seduce me, even with his nascent success and his deserved place in the XXL Freshmen slump. If Die for My Bitch is fun and pleasant, everything still remains to be proven for a young rapper of less than 20 years old at the time, who juggles between irregularity and prowess. Without forgetting of course the essential, that is to say: find his own personality, because the spectre of his cousin Kendrick was much too omnipresent to really distinguish himself.
However, a little voice in my head tells me that this Baby Keem has something special and the weapons to become why not one of the top rappers of these next years. Especially when he released Hooligan, which for me currently remains my favorite song of his repertoire. Before the release of this album, the Carson native seems to show a constant evolution, where many other rappers tend to show their limits. First of all Baby Keem does not rush, he does things with accuracy to be more impactful. Far from this sick productivity of the streaming era, Keem climbed the ladder without wanting to burn his wings. He respects his elders and does not stop working to show that positive. Moreover since last year, Baby Keem managed to get a featuring with Kendrick Lamar, Travis Scott and finally to be the guest of the last album Donda of Kanye West. Not bad, right? Given the circumstances, this first album The Melodic Blue sounds like a double whammy to me in the sense that I'm not only waiting for Keem to find his personality (breaking free from the clutches of his influences), but also proving to me that his potential is real.
Engaged in the new project / label of Kendrick Lamar "pgLang", The Melodic Blue emerges without further delay in the universe proposed by Baby Keem, that is to say a mixture of Trap and Hardcore Hip Hop very rhythmic sprinkled with some touches of Pop Rap. The proof is that Trademark Usa acts as if you were sounded by the detonation of the grenade. We find from the beginning this urgent and oppressive character, as if a timer turned and that we had to rush. It is necessary to understand that The Melodic Blue is a kind of action movie where everything is condensed, intense, sulphurous and terribly capricious (even if on the end, the tension goes back down towards something more relaxed). On a double instrumentation Trademark Usa delivers a part of truth on its young author, that is to say an ambition to assert himself and to prove his current success where his parents did not really know how to help him. Overall this theme is omnipresent in his writing and shows us that he suffered a lot from it. The album then goes on with a kind of cover of a song by the Boston rapper Che Ecru whose contribution is not really useful, except that I could discover some interesting things. A sign that shows many things... The Melodic Blue must be understood as a series of impulses and spontaneity on the part of Baby Keem. We go through various soundscapes and atmospheres, as oppressive as sometimes very atmospheric, which allows to add some clarity on the general idea of the album. That's why you go from Spapegoats a very airy song, to a triumphant and raw fusion on Range Brothers or even synthetic/industial on the touching Issues. To be more precise, this is also why there are moments that could be described as sacrificial in The Melodic Blue that serve mostly to advance the adventure or to share an emotion on the present moment.
Whatever happens, The Melodic Blue rarely strays from a guiding and thematic line that becomes almost predictable as it progresses. Deeply affected by absence and loneliness, Baby Keem acts with defense mechanisms. When we take for example Lost Souls, we understand this way in which Baby Keem will express his pain through a shell and act very often through rudeness. Besides the family aspect, childhood and adolescence, the other themes are always smoother to speak about girls or conquests. In fact, although we have to take into consideration that Baby Keem is still very young and that it is also part of the charm of the endearing character, the native of Carson proves that it still lacks depth of writing. A real flaw that has this bad habit of frustrating you. That is to say that even when the subjects become very interesting, it is rare that it really materializes. Unfortunately there are also some insufficient passages that add up to a lot like South Africa.
Otherwise, this album is actually quite fun musically. The interpretation is not exceptional and Baby Keem has not really been able to detach himself from the grip of his first influence, but there are signs that it is on the right track. One thing is for sure, it sounds like something different from what we are used to hear in the current Hip Hop. Many contributors and producers have come in to add to the work, while Baby Keem tries his best to keep the project alive until the end. Honestly, yes I'm disappointed, because it doesn't really meet my expectations. There is a lot of good stuff here, and on the other hand a lot of frustration. His minimalist and robotic flow at times can irritate, we often lose our footing in the adventure as if sometimes the songs did not necessarily have a link together.
As a symbol, Family Ties is a bomb because necessarily the return of Kendrick Lamar, very discreet for a few years could not follow another trajectory than this one. It is not a coincidence if after so many years of collaboration off, this song appears as the symbol that should accompany this first album. It's like a wall of support for The Melodic Blue and it's divinely intelligent. Family Ties is a thoughtful calculation, even the song itself. This one allows to highlight the relationship between Baby Keem and Kendrick, to bring a personal, introspective touch but also to allow its main author to grow. Musically Family Ties is of course a success, a triumphant trap in the first part, then volcanic thereafter. We find Kendrick Lamar on this kind of brutal instrumental that he loves to tame, especially when the song takes a new turn with a change of beat. The only drawback of this song precisely is that in my opinion Family Ties will never be a real masterpiece, because finally there is nothing amazing, nor fabulous when you think about it. Globally, the contribution of Kendrick Lamar is almost annecdotal to like give thickness to the project, but either it captures all the attention, or it tries to sometimes try to fill the gaps and the defects of the album.