Hykeem Carter doesn't arrive out of nowhere. It was eventually disclosed that the rapper, born close to Los Angeles and raised in Las Vegas, is Kendrick Lamar's cousin. This is why he featured, while still unknown, on the Black Panther soundtrack, and albums from Jay Rock and Schoolboy Q.

BABY KEEM - The Melodic Blue

This is also why he was among the Freshmen 2020 class, while at the time, he had only delivered two mixtapes The Sound Of A Bad Habit and Die For My Bitch, and the "Orange Soda" single. This is why he contributed to Kanye's Donda opus. That is why his first album is full of stars such as Travis Scott, Don Toliver, and of course K.Dot. And this is why his rap style is not too far from his family relative's.

As a matter of fact, the man who goes by the name of Baby Keem is as versatile a rapper as his cousin. He likes to use diverse flows and tones, and even diverse voices, with a favor for his whining one - he calls himself "baby" for a reason.

At times, his raps are raw and direct, like on "Family Ties" - or "family ties", his songs having no capital letter. But he can sing as well, like on the sex and club oriented "pink panties", on the hook of Che Ecru's "Fuck… Instagram". And when both men rap together, like on "family ties" and "range brothers", the youngest one compares favorably with the other, even though, like it is said, Kendrick has big shoes to fill.

Like his cousin, Baby Keem doesn't belong to any genre, or any predefined style of rap. Also, like him, he is a good kid in a m.A.A.d city. His upstart braggadocio and his thug postures are counterbalanced with some pieces of conscious rap. His outrageous lyrics about his thirst for girls are compensated with sensitive and romantic moments. And even though the trap music of today is dominant here, it is frequently maltreated by an almost experimental approach.

The rapper, who happens to be a producer as well, contributes to most of his music. And it is full of surprises, like on the first track, the great "trademark usa", which he blends with background noises and big basses close to dissonance. He splits that song into different parts, and he does it again with "range brothers", "lost souls", and "family ties". Baby Keem, in a nutshell, is as ambiguous and arty as his cousin.

There's a difference, though, and it is highlighted in the title of the album: The Melodic Blue. That peculiar rapper, indeed, likes melodies and songs. And since it is often related, he is full of melancholy. He is gloomy. He has the blues.

This album looks like 808s & Heartbreak when, on "issues", Baby Keem turns confessional and fights his demons with an Auto-Tuned voice. Likewise, with "lost souls", when he looks for a soulmate among some lost girls, or with "first order of business", when he establishes the priorities of his life, or the nice "scars", when he questions God about his pains. The influence of Kanye gets even more obvious on the weaker "gorgeous": the superstar had a song with the same title, and Lil Keed alludes to another of his tracks, "Heartless".

At the end of the day, this is a rather satisfying patchwork of hip-hop, with the right number of guests, and a good balance between bangers and introspective moments, a right equilibrium between lightness and gravity. And to compensate for a few misses, like the collaboration with Travis Scott on "durag activity", there are very nice songs such as "cocoa", featuring Don Toliver, and the abovementioned "scars".

As it turns up, nepotism can have good sides, sometimes.

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