J-Lat music review: “The Melodic Blue” by Baby Keem


Album cover for “The Melodic Blue”

Jacob Latimer, Projects Editor

Baby Keem’s debut studio album “The Melodic Blue” is unique, engaging and shows Keem’s potential to become a household name in hip-hop.

Kendrick Lamar features have become the talking point of any new album due to his social media silence and sparse music releases since “DAMN”, his 2017 release. “The Melodic Blue” has not one, but three features from the Pulitzer-prize winning artist… who also happens to be Keem’s cousin.

The fittingly-titled single from the album, “family ties,” featuring Kendrick, offered listeners a taste of what was to come from the full project: bouncy trap production, dynamic beat switches and unique flows.

The intro track, “trademark usa,” pulls the listener in with introspective lyrics while keeping the listener engaged with two gritty trap beats. 

The standout tracks on the album are the ones where Keem went in a different direction with his music. For me, these tracks were “pink panties,” “issues” and “16.” These tracks show Keem’s artistic versatility, and I can see him taking his music in any of those three directions for future projects. 

The feature list on this album is short but impressive. Don Toliver, who has been one of the most exciting artists since the world was blessed with his feature on Travis Scott’s “CAN’T SAY,” delivered an impressive verse on “cocoa.” His and Keem’s vocals mold together perfectly. 

Speaking of Travis Scott, he has a feature on the first single released from this album, “durag activity.” I haven’t been the biggest fan of this single since its release. I don’t think it was a good introduction to the rollout of “The Melodic Blue.” However, it was still a decent song with a typical verse from Travis.

A leak from “range brothers” featuring Kendrick emerged on Twitter the day before the album was released, and a meme was born. 

“Top of the morning. Top of the morning. Top of the morning. Top of the morning,” Kendrick said. 

The internet questioned if this leaked Kendrick verse would make the final cut of the album. I thought I was safe as “range brothers” reached its final minute of runtime. But then, the beat switched.

I honestly don’t hate this part of the song. It’s supposed to be weird… I think. Not only is the “top of the morning” verse odd, but Kendrick’s adlibs during Keem’s verses are disturbing. Nonetheless, “range brothers” is one of my favorites from the album. At least we can all set Kendrick’s verse as our morning alarm now. You can’t spell “Lamar” without “alarm,” after all.

One can only imagine how much pressure having three features from Kendrick Lamar on your debut album adds. It’s clear that Keem went all-out on the songs featuring Kendrick, but I found his lyrical content and flows underwhelming on many of his solo songs.

That’s not to say the album was underwhelming; I actually found myself wanting more once it ended. The production kept me on my toes and was anything but repetitive. 

Out of 16 tracks, Keem impressively has production credits on 14 of them. 

The flaws of this album are noticeable, but they don’t overshadow the potential that Keem showed throughout. Tracks like “lost souls” and “south africa” sounded unfinished and left me wanting more from them. Keem’s lyrical content was all over the place; introspective here, braggadocious there. I don’t turn on a Baby Keem song for his lyrics, though. I expect to have fun and hear something different, and that’s exactly what I got from “The Melodic Blue.”

Between his feature on Kanye West’s “Donda,” landing three Kendrick features on his debut studio album and putting out some of the most dynamic music videos I’ve seen in recent years, Keem is consistently proving himself to be a standout artist of his generation. 

Favorite tracks: scapegoats, range brothers, family ties, scars, 16.

Rating: 7/10

Projects Editor Jacob Latimer can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @jacoblatimer_.