You May Know Him as Lil Baby
Sophie Anabelle Somé
Picture from Arturo Holmes/Getty Images
To be completely honest I did not know Lil Baby’s real name until about a year ago. For the curious minds, his legal name is Dominique Armani Jones. I was listening to his music way before then, but digging into the artist’s personal life and history—which I highly recommend because it is definitely illuminating and allows you to connect more with their music—was not something I wanted to do. Fast consumerism seemed like an easy although lazy route that I took without questioning. The Covid-19 pandemic triggered an increasing interest and fascination towards Lil Baby. George Floyd’s tragic death and the Black Lives Matter movement undoubtedly changed my perception of the world. In the headlines, Lil Baby not only released “The Bigger Picture”, a protest song advocating for social and racial justice in the world, but was also actively helping George Floyd’s family. Lil Baby also paid for Gianna Floyd’s birthday party and attended the celebration. It was incredible to see him use his talent and wealth to convey an important message regarding justice for Black people.
Growing up in Atlanta with a single mother and two sisters, Lil Baby dropped out of high school in grade nine. He turned to “the streets” and became a virtuous gambler and a drug dealer. In 2015, Lil Baby found himself incarcerated for two years in a maximum-security prison after multiple arrests for firearm and marijuana possession. After his release, Young Thug—another renowned rapper and Lil Baby’s close friend—encouraged him to go to the studio and record music. Fast-forward to 2022 and his first album My Turn was the number one selling album among all genres. By that time, Lil Baby had left his old lifestyle behind and was committed to a music career.
The rapper has an incredibly humble spirit that is here to inspire. I remember my eyes ablaze, hypnotized by my screen as I first listened to “The Bigger Picture”. Lil baby says in the song: “It’s bigger than black and white, it’s a problem with the whole way of life, it can’t change overnight.” Those words just underline how social justice and advocating for Black lives is everyone’s concern and responsibility. In “Untrapped: The Story of Lil Baby”, a documentary about his life released by Prime Video, the rapper talks about quarantine and how it made him reflect on his life and the things that matter to him. He says that “it made [him] realize all the awards, all the numbers, it [doesn’t] mean anything.”
Lil Baby strives towards renewing people's hope with his music and most of his songs are tied to his old neighborhood. If we take a look at his most recent songs on It's Only Me, an album released on October 11th this year, blatant traces of Lil Baby’s past still pop up. In “Red Spill”, he says: “I moved on from slangin’ drugs and pistols, can’t be thinking simple,” and later adds on “I know I’m the motivation, they see me, they see a hero.” In “Double down”, he claims: “Watch me shake the world and wake up everyone who is sleeping on me.” In his older album My turn, Lil Baby expresses in his song “Solid” that he is a “product of the real trenches, that’s why I wear a coat”. When Lil Baby raps about his old neighborhood, he certainly doesn’t do so in order to brag about his current life situation. He is explaining the importance of the environment on one’s life choices. He is conveying how he did not have many alternatives but to turn to drug dealing and other criminal activities. He is also voicing to younger people that they should try their best to stay away from that trap and strive for something greater than “the streets”. Lil Baby’s message resides in showing the younger generation that life is not defined by their current situation: he is this philosophy’s living proof.
On September 22nd, Lil Baby was awarded the Quincy Jones Humanitarian award. The reason behind this title resides in his incredible work in advocating for racial and social justice issues. Part of Lil Baby’s contribution for his community involves an annual “Back to School Fest” where more than 3000 children from Atlanta’s West End are given school supplies, haircuts, backpacks, and have the opportunity to enjoy games, carnival rides and food. The rapper, in collaboration with Lemont Gradley, an Atlanta restaurateur, worked to offer 100 jobs to young adults. At last, Lil Baby established a 150,000$ My Turn scholarship program for students from his former high school. When it is time to give back to his community, not only does Lil Baby excel, but he is one of our time’s greatest activists for racial and social justice.