The trendiest person in all of rap just set the world on fire.
Hykeem Jamaal Carter Jr., a 20-year-old rapper known as “Baby Keem,” had one of the best two-week stretches an artist could ever ask for. On Aug. 27, he released “family ties,” the lead single for his upcoming album, “The Melodic Blue.” The single, recorded and performed with his cousin and rapper, Kendrick Lamar, earned its way up the charts, with many calling it the best track of 2021. Two days later, on Aug. 29, Keem jumped back into the pool, being featured on the track “Praise God” from Kanye West’s album “Donda” alongside Travis Scott.
The two tracks combined with the resurgence of Keem’s 2019 mixtape “DIE FOR MY BITCH” set the stage perfectly for him to have all the attention when his album was released on Sept. 10.
Many listeners, including myself, were skeptical, yet hopeful for what the album would bring to the table. In the past, Keem’s music had lived and died by his sophomoric bars and somewhat squeaky voice. As a result, many were waiting to see if two years between his last release and this one was enough time for him to mature lyrically and vocally.
Even from the first track, “trademark usa,” Keem left no room for doubt. The opening track brings out a side of him that listeners had never seen. The abundance of flow and beat changes throughout is more than enough to keep the listener engaged and optimistic for the rest of the album.
We also see more mature lyrics from “The Melodic Blue.” In “trademark usa,” Keem discusses the adversity he has seen during his life and the position he found himself in at the age of 20, “I took the ‘Lac then hopped on the flight/ I cannot look towards your jaded advice/ I took the torch, I quit being nice/ I took the torch, now I gotta fight.”
Over the course of the album’s 16-track run, we see Keem’s talent on full display. Each song has an amazing amount of sonic variety, leaving at least one or two tracks for each person to like. Songs like “pink panties,” “south africa” and “durag activity” all have some of the catchiest hooks you will ever hear in a rap album. “South africa” has by far the most catchy hook in an album full of great ones, “Catch a flight out the blue, South Africa/ Hit my plug for the juice, then I re-up/ Cancel me, I cancel you, we won’t make up/ You get money, I do too, let’s fall in love.”
While every song on the album has its positives, no song can match the raw emotion, production, and lyricism of track 11, titled “scars.” Keem uses this track to show how many important people in his life have left him, causing him to question his faith in God.
The song itself has a soft, yet rhythmic style that gives off similar vibes to West’s 2008 album “808s and Heartbreak.” It’s fitting that the song would sound like that, as it happens to sample the drumline from the song “Love Lockdown,” from the same album.
“The Melodic Blue” also flaunts its conservative, yet efficient features. Popular artists Don Toliver and Travis Scott have excellent features on the songs “cocoa” and “durag activity,” respectively. After his performance on “family ties,” Lamar rears his head twice more, once on “range brothers” and again on “vent.”
The three total features from Lamar are a welcome addition to the album, especially for fans of his who have been starved of new music since his most recent album “DAMN,” released in 2017.
Overall, “The Melodic Blue” stands on its own as one of the best albums of 2021, standing up to albums such as Tyler, the Creator’s “CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST” and Olivia Rodrigo’s “SOUR.” Its quality is made more impressive by the fact that Keem wrote and produced this album almost completely by himself, and at such a young age. With Keem showing this much potential now, music fans can only be ecstatic to see what comes from him in the years, and hopefully, decades to come.
4/5 Brooding Keems